Oracle Calls HP Itanium Lawsuit a 'Publicity Stunt'

In a legal filing, Oracle claims HP is trying to blame the software vendor for HP's own reliance on the controversial Itanium platform from Intel.

Oracle executives are dismissing Hewlett-Packard's lawsuit over Oracle's decision to end support for Intel's Itanium technology, calling HP's move a "publicity stunt" designed to blame the software giant for HP's misguided embrace of a faltering processor platform.

In a 15-page court filing to answer HP's lawsuit, Oracle officials contradict the accusation that they have put customers at risk in hopes of bolstering their own SPARC hardware portfolio. Instead, they said, it is HP's desperate attempts to hold on to a dying Itanium platform that is the real threat to enterprises.

"HP untenably has put itself and thousands of customers out on the end of a very long limb because HP, almost alone now, clings to a decades-old microprocessor architecture-Intel's Itanium chip line-that has no future," Oracle wrote in the legal brief, filed in the Superior Court of California in Santa Clara. "Intel has wanted to discontinue Itanium production for years, and HP knows it. The performance advantage over Intel's x86-based microprocessors that once justified Itanium is today effectively gone."

However, should Itanium go away, it would be a significant financial blow to HP, which has standardized its high-end Integrity and NonStop servers on the processor and generates money from its Itanium support agreements, Oracle said. HP by far is the largest consumer of Itanium chips.

"So rather than telling its customers the truth about Intel's plans for phasing out the Itanium platform, and helping those customers transition to Intel Xeon systems or other alternatives, HP perpetuates the myth that there is a long 10-year roadmap for Itanium development," Oracle wrote. "Now HP is suing Oracle for the temerity to tell customers the truth."

Oracle officials in March said they no longer would develop software for the Itanium platform, saying that in discussion Intel engineers had said the chip vendor would soon kill off the chip in favor of its x86-based Xeon portfolio. In making its decision, Oracle joined Microsoft and Red Hat, two other major software vendors that had ended Itanium support in their software.

Oracle's announcement drew the ire of both HP and Intel executives, and further splintered the deteriorating relationship with HP, once a strong partner. That relationship began to sour when Oracle bought Sun Microsystems last year for $7.4 billion, putting the software maker in direct competition with HP in the data center hardware space. It was further weakened by Oracle's hiring as president last year of Mark Hurd, the former HP CEO forced to resign under pressure, and then HP's hiring of Leo Apotheker as Hurd's replacement. Apotheker at one time was CEO of SAP, a key software competitor of Oracle.

Intel officials said they have an Intel development roadmap that stretches out through the rest of the decade, and HP officials accused Oracle of purposely risking the well-being of jointed Oracle-HP customers in hopes of boosting the SPARC hardware business inherited from Sun. HP is suing Oracle for breaching a contract to work together for the benefits of their joint customers. The two share about 140,000 customers, with many running Oracle databases on HP Itanium-based hardware.

In their response, Oracle officials derided HP for what they said is a "massive campaign to vilify Oracle for this announcement," and called the arguments in HP's lawsuit "utterly specious." Oracle noted that the company plans to support customers with Itanium systems "for years to come" while they migrate to other hardware platforms. "But Oracle is not going to pretend that Itanium has a future when it does not," officials said in the court document. "Insofar as Intel platforms are concerned, the time has come to focus on Xeon and future x86 chips. That is Intel's direction, and that is the direction of all other major vendors-except HP. And Oracle certainly is not going to deny customers the information it has about Itanium, which is crucially important for those customers to make future plans."