Oracle to Continue Porting Its Software to HP's Itanium Servers

The decision comes weeks after a judge ordered Oracle to continue developing software for Itanium as long as HP continues to make Itanium-based servers.

Oracle will continue developing database and other enterprise software for Intel's Itanium processor platform in the wake of its lengthy court battle with one-time partner Hewlett-Packard.

Oracle executives announced their decision in a statement Sept. 4, a month after a California judge ordered that the software giant continue porting its products so that they will run on HP's Itanium-based servers, including its Integrity and NonStop systems.

In a bitter legal dispute that shredded any semblance of the once-thriving partnership between the two vendors, James Kleinberg, a superior court judge in Santa Clara, Calif., ruled that Oracle, in its decision in 2011 to end support for Itanium, violated a contract with HP.

HP officials had argued that as part of a settlement in a lawsuit over Oracle's decision to hire ex-HP CEO Mark Hurd in September 2010, the two companies had agreed to continue supporting technologies used by their 140,000 or so joint customers.

Oracle executives argued unsuccessfully that the disputed paragraph in the legal settlement over Hurd was not a legally binding contract, but rather a casual agreement of intention.

After Kleinberg's ruling Aug. 1, Oracle officials had vowed to appeal. However, as per the Sept. 4 decision, they also will continue abiding the judge's decision.

"A judge recently ruled that Oracle has a contract to continue porting its software to Itanium computers for as long as HP sells Itanium computers," Oracle officials said in the statement. "Therefore, Oracle will continue building the latest versions of its database and other software covered by the judge's ruling to HP Itanium computers. Oracle software on HP's Itanium computers will be released on approximately the same schedule as Oracle software on IBM's Power systems."

Kleinberg's ruling was only the first step in the trial. Now that the judge found that Oracle was legally obligated to continue supporting Itanium, a jury will determine how much Oracle will need to pay HP in damages.

The longtime relationship between HP and Oracle began unraveling in 2010, when Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, a move that gave Oracle Sun's SPARC/Solaris hardware business, which brought it into direct competition with HP. The relationship further deteriorated when, within months of each other, Hurd was forced to resign from HP and was soon hired by Oracle as president. HP sued, and soon after, hired Leo Apotheker-former CEO of Oracle rival SAP-to replace Hurd. Apotheker lasted 11 months in the job, being replaced by former eBay head Meg Whitman.

In March 2011, Oracle officials announced that they no longer were supporting Itanium, claiming that Intel engineers had said that the chip maker had plans to end development of Itanium and focus its data center efforts on the x86-based Xeon chips. The move drew the ire of both Intel and HP, which had standardized its high-end server portfolio on Itanium and is by far the largest buyer of Itanium chips.

HP officials called it a cynical move designed to force HP customers to undertake the costly and time-consuming chore of moving its Oracle workloads to another platform-hopefully Oracle's SPARC/Solaris systems.

HP eventually sued, saying Oracle was breaching a contract between the two companies. Oracle countersued, claiming HP wasn't being honest about the future of Itanium. Oracle officials also noted that other software makers, including Microsoft and Red Hat, had already stopped supporting Itanium.