HP's Trial With Oracle Over Itanium Delayed

HP's effort to collect as much as $4 billion from Oracle in damages was put on hold while a court reviews an appeal by the software maker.

Hewlett-Packard reportedly will have to wait longer to try to collect damages from Oracle for the software company’s 2011 decision to stop porting its applications to Intel’s Itanium platform.

The trial, in which HP officials were expected to seek as much as $4 billion from Oracle for the damages they say were caused to their high-end server business, was scheduled to begin April 8. However, Oracle filed an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) motion, claiming a violation of its free speech rights.

U.S. District Court Judge James Kleinberg rejected the motion, saying it was filed too late and rescheduled the start of the trial to April 15. However, the next day Kleinberg postponed the trial indefinitely after Oracle appealed his ruling on the anti-SLAPP motion, according to a report in PCWorld. The trial will start after the appeal has been ruled on.

The next court day for the two sides is scheduled for May 10, according to the PCWorld report.

The dispute over Itanium was part of a longer string of conflicts between HP and Oracle, which had been longtime partners and currently share about 140,000 customers. The relationship began to deteriorate after Oracle bought Sun Microsystems in 2010, putting it in direct competition with HP in the data center hardware space.

Later that year, after Mark Hurd was forced to resign as HP’s CEO, Oracle hired Hurd as president, a move that led HP to sue Oracle and Hurd. In 2011, Oracle officials announced that it would no longer develop its software for Itanium, saying Intel was ending development of the controversial high-end chip platform in favor of it more popular x86-based Xeon chips.

Executives with both Intel and HP disputed the claim, saying the Itanium roadmap was set through the rest of the decade. HP called Oracle’s decision a cynical move designed to force their joint customers to leave Itanium and migrate to the SPARC/Solaris platform Oracle inherited when it bought Sun. They also said it violated an agreement reached in the settlement over the Hurd case to continue supporting technologies used by their shared customers.

Oracle executives denied there ever was such a formal agreement, but Kleinberg in August 2012 disagreed and ordered Oracle to continue porting its software, including its popular database, to Itanium.

In an email to journalists April 8, HP officials said the anti-SLAPP suit was another ploy by Oracle to delay the trial.

“As this case has progressed, it has become increasingly clear that Oracle breached its contractual commitment to HP and ignored its repeated promises of support to our shared customers for the purpose of driving hardware sales from Itanium to Sun servers,” the company said in the statement. “It is therefore not surprising that Oracle would make every attempt to postpone the trial and extend the uncertainty in the marketplace by filing an Anti-SLAPP motion and immediately appealing when the trial court properly found that the motion was untimely.”

HP executives have said Oracle’s decision has had a negative impact on its Business Critical Systems unit, which has seen sales fall between 11 percent and 38 percent a quarter since the software company’s announcement. HP’s high-end Integrity and NonStop systems are powered by Itanium chips. They are expected to ask for as much as $4 billion in damages.

For their part, Oracle officials have argued in court that they could have won $94.5 million in business with their SPARC systems had HP been more honest about the future of Itanium.