Oracle, HP Continue Sparring over Itanium's Future

In its latest statement, Oracle reiterated its belief that Intel will phase out Itanium in favor of x86, and that HP is doing customers a disservice by saying otherwise.

Oracle officials continue to insist that Intel is phasing out its Itanium platform and are criticizing Hewlett-Packard for saying otherwise.

Oracle's statement is the latest shot in a back-and-forth that began March 22 when the giant software maker said it will no longer develop software for Itanium processors. In the brief statement, company officials said they made the decision after several meetings with Intel managers, who told them that the company's focus was on their x86-base Xeon processors.

Intel and HP quickly fired back at Oracle, with both claiming an Itanium road map that stretches out at least a decade, and with the next two generations-code-named "Poulson" and "Kittson"-already in development.

HP also accused Oracle of cynically sacrificing customers for the sake of gaining a competitive edge against its server rivals. Oracle entered the server field last year when it bought Sun Microsystems for about $7.4 billion and inherited its SPARC/Solaris hardware business.

"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."

However, in a response March 23, an Oracle spokesperson said it was his company that is looking out for customers by giving them significant advanced notice and by letting them know their position on the future of Itanium. Oracle also has said it will continue to support existing customers that run their software on Itanium systems.

"HP is well aware that Intel's future direction is focused on x86 and that plans to replace Itanium with x86 are already in place," the Oracle spokesperson said in the statement. "HP is knowingly withholding this information from our joint Itanium customers. While new versions of Oracle software will not run on Itanium, we will support existing Oracle/Itanium customers on existing Oracle products."

Oracle is the third major software vendor-joining Microsoft and Red Hat-in the past two years to end support for Itanium.

Itanium is a high-end platform that Intel sells primarily to HP, which uses it in its Integrity and NonStop systems. Forrester Research analyst Richard Fichera estimates that as much as half of HP's high-end Superdome systems that have been sold are running Oracle database software.

HP officials also have said they will support Oracle customers that are running their software on HP systems.

Fichera said both Microsoft-with its SQL Server database software-and IBM and its Power systems and DB2 database offering could benefit from the confusion caused by Oracle's decision regarding Itanium. HP also could easily port its HP-UX operating system to its x86 systems and build an x86 version of the Superdome server, he said.

Oracle's decision should not impact HP customers in the short term, though some will see their options shrink and their budgets grow a bit.