HP, Oracle Aim for Pretrial Wins in Intel Itanium Case

HP is asking the court to rule ahead of the May 31 trial that Oracle is contractually obligated to support future generations of Itanium. Oracle disputes the claim.

Hewlett-Packard and Oracle are both looking for the court to give them pretrial rulings in the case surrounding Oracle€™s decision last year to no longer develop software for Intel€™s Itanium processor platform.

Oracle executives in March 2011 said they were ending support for Itanium, a high-end chip architecture that HP uses in its massive Integrity and NonStop servers. The executives claimed that Intel engineers told them they were planning to end development of Itanium in favor of it the company€™s more popular x86-based Xeon chips.

HP sued, claiming that Oracle€™s decision violated an agreement the two companies had to continue support of their mutual clients. HP claims the two companies share about 140,000 customers, with many running Oracle€™s software on Itanium-based systems from HP.

Oracle officials have countersued HP, claiming among other things that HP was guilty of false advertisement for not telling Oracle or its customers that HP was paying Intel about $88 million a year to continue development of Itanium.

The two sides€”once close partners€”have traded accusations throughout the past year. The case is scheduled for trial in May.

HP on March 26 filed a motion asking a judge to rule now that Oracle is contractually obligated to continue developing software for Itanium systems. Oracle in its filing disagreed with HP€™s claims. In a second filing, HP is asking the court to dismiss Oracle€™s countersuit.

The relationship between the two Silicon Valley giants has been disintegrating for more than a year. Oracle in 2010 bought Sun Microsystems for $7.4 billion, a move that includes Sun€™s data center hardware business, putting it in more direct competition with HP. Later in the year, after HP's then-CEO Mark Hurd was forced to resign, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison sharply criticized how HP€™s board of directors handled the situation. Oracle then hired Hurd as president. HP sued Hurd and Oracle over the possibility of Hurd revealing trade secrets to his new employer.

HP and Oracle eventually settled the case, but the animosity was cranked even higher when HP hired Leo Apotheker€”former CEO of Oracle software rival SAP€”to replace Hurd. Apotheker was replaced last year by former eBay CEO Meg Whitman.

HP officials have argued in the past€”and did so again in their filing€”that Oracle General Counsel Dorian Daley at the time of the settlement over Hurd€™s hiring agreed that the two vendors would continue to work together as they had in the past. HP has said that includes continuing to support Oracle software on Itanium systems. HP is by far the top user of Itanium chips.

€œIt is time for Oracle to quit pursuing baseless accusations and honor its commitments to HP and to our shared customers," HP officials said in a statement released March 26.

Oracle officials have framed Daley€™s comments as more of a simple statement than a legally binding agreement.

"We don't believe, nor do we think HP really believes, that a settlement agreement relating to Mark Hurd's employment could possibly obligate Oracle to write new software for a platform that is clearly [at the] end of life," Oracle attorney Dan Wall said, according to a Reuters report.

Throughout the yearlong debate, Intel executives, including CEO Paul Otellini, have said that Intel has no intention of ending development of Itanium, adding that the giant chip maker has a product road map that extends the life of the platform through at least the end of the decade.