HP Has Options in Wake of Oracle's Itanium Move: Forrester

HP will be hit hardest by Oracle's decision to end software development for Intel's Itanium platform, according to Forrester analyst Richard Fichera. But HP isn't without options.

Hewlett-Packard and its HP-UX customers stand to take the biggest hit if Oracle sticks with its decision to end support for Intel's Itanium platform, though the server maker does have options for easing the situation, according to an analyst.

In particular, HP relatively easily could port HP-UX to its x86 server platform and already has high-end systems based Intel's Xeon chips that could handle much of the HP-UX workloads, Forrester Research analyst Richard Fichera said in aMarch 23 blog post.

The company also could build a version of its Itanium-based Superdome systems based on x86 chips, Fichera wrote.

However, despite these options, both HP and its customers will feel the pain of Oracle's decision, which-regardless of Oracle comments to the contrary-was in part made to hurt HP, he said.

"All in all a very rough move on Oracle's part," Fichera wrote. "Oracle claims that the move was not motivated by competitive issues with HP, and HP has been very vocal in decrying it as destructive and unfair to major enterprise Oracle customers. While it is always difficult to unravel the decision process of major shifts like this one, my gut feel is that HP's claim probably has some merit."

Oracle not only made a decision for its own longterm future, but that decision "had a potential negative tactical impact on a major competitor, and as such was probably much easier to make," Fichera wrote.

Oracle officials announced their decision in a brief statement late March 22, saying that after several conversations with Intel executives, "Intel management made it clear that their strategic focus is on their x86 microprocessor and that Itanium was nearing the end of its life."

Intel quickly issued a statement disputing Oracle's assertion, saying that the company has a strong roadmap for Itanium, including the next two releases, codenamed Poulson and Kittson.

HP officials were even harsher in their reaction, blasting Oracle for sacrificing customer concerns to pursue a cynical competitive strategy.

"Oracle continues to show a pattern of anti-customer behavior as they move to shore up their failing Sun server business," David Donatelli, executive vice president and general manager of HP's Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking business, said in a statement. "We are shocked that Oracle would put enterprises and governments at risk while costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity in a shameless gambit to limit fair competition."

Oracle is trying to prop up the data center hardware business it inherited from Sun Microsystems by forcing customers to choose the Sun products, HP officials said in their statement. They noted that since Oracle first announced its intention in 2009 to buy Sun, HP has jumped over Oracle to claim the No. 2 spot in the Unix market.