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Itanium is headed towards its death bed, and HP is suing Oracle for dropping software support, which it claims breaches contract.  (Source: Itanium)

Oracle and HP became bitter rivals after Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, putting it in a competitive position with its former partner.  (Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America)
There's no love lost between these two former friends

The heads of the world's largest PC maker, Hewlett-Packard, Comp. (HPQ), and the world's third largest software maker, Oracle Corp. (ORCL), used to sit across from each other in the meeting room planning joint strategies.  Now they're going to be meeting at a new location -- the federal court house.

In a sign of the growing rift between the firms, HP filed suit against Oracle in California (Case "Hewlett-Packard Company v. Oracle Corporation" No:111CV203163) over the software maker's decision to drop support for Intel Corp.'s (INTC) low-volume Itanium processors.

I. HP and Oracle -- Friends Become Enemies

The clash between HP and Oracle traces back to Oracle's 2010 acquisition of Sun Microsystems, which thrust it into a position as a server maker.  Previously, the pair had been dedicated partners for almost 30 years and shared over 140,000 customers.

After the Sun purchase, tensions elevated when Oracle CEO Larry Ellison gave a position to disgraced former HP CEO Mark Hurd.  HP sued Oracle claiming Mr. Hurd had trade secrets and would be in breach of contract.  It eventually settled the case.

Soon after this incident, HP hired Léo Apotheker.  Mr. Apotheker was no friend of Oracle's -- Oracle claims that while he was with German IT business firm SAP AG that he executed a plot to steal Oracle's intellectual property.

With a bitter divide between the companies' leadership and a new competitive position, it's little surprise that the rivalry would come to legal blows.

In a statement HP chief spokesman Bill Wohl states, "The silence from Oracle is deafening. We are very disappointed it has to come to this."

In the suit HP alleges that Oracle violated a contract promising to support Itanium to the bitter end.  The company's lawyers write, "In a mere eight months, Oracle has gone from arm-in-arm partnership with Hewlett-Packard to bitter antagonist."

II. Oracle Fires Back

In a press release, Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger fires back with an equally stinging rebuke.  She says that Oracle has quite a different recollection with regards to what it signed.

She writes:

It just takes a few minutes to read the early drafts of the agreement to prove that HP’s claim is not true. What is true is that HP explicitly asked Oracle to guarantee continued support for Itanium; but Oracle refused, and HP’s Itanium support guarantee wording was deleted from the final signed agreement.

Here's where it gets interesting -- HP claims the signed document says Oracle does have to support Itanium till its end of life.  Oracle claims its version of the signed document says it doesn't.

III. Itanium: Bye, Bye, Bye

The other thing Oracle and HP's documents reveal is something that IT people could have seen coming -- Itanium is reportedly set to be discontinued by Intel.  This comes hardly as a surprise -- Itanium sales fell abysmally below Intel's projections.

While the chips delivered some promising features, overall performance was poor.  As a result, Itanium was outsold by Sun Microsystems' (now owned by Oracle) SPARC chips and International Business Machines' (IBM) POWER architecture chips.

At the end of the day Itanium still posted a small, but tidy profit for Intel. However, the problem was that the small volume led to software providers ditching the platform.  Among those to quit it included OS makers Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Red Hat, Inc. (RHT).  Without software, the hardware became and increasingly tough sell.

As of March of this year, Intel's chief executive Paul Otellini remarked, "Intel's work on Intel Itanium processors and platforms continues unabated with multiple generations of chips currently in development and on schedule. We remain firmly committed to delivering a competitive, multi-generational roadmap for HP-UX and other operating system customers that run the Itanium architecture."

Now that the public knows that the platform is head for end-of-life and has little software support, it's questionable whether any major business would order the chips.  The only remaining question is when the platform will die.

Oracle claims that when HP approached it in September 2010 asking to commit to Itanium till end-of-life, that it already new about Intel's decision to phase the processor out.  It says that it didn't hear about that decision until March 2011 when it was informed by Intel.

The company accuses:

What we know for certain is that Ray Lane and HP’s current board members and Leo Apotheker and HP’s current management team now know full well that Intel has plans in place to end-of-life of the Itanium microprocessor. Knowing this, HP issued numerous public statements in an attempt to mislead and deceive their customers and shareholders into believing that these plans to end-of-life Itanium do not exist. But they do. Intel’s plans to end-of-life Itanium will be revealed in court now that HP has filed this utterly malicious and meritless lawsuit against Oracle.

So which is it? Did HP deceive its former partner trying to trick it into signing a document that it knew would be disadvantageous?  Or was HP merely trying to solidify cooperation between the two firms?  The courts will be the judge of that.      



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Something has been bothering me
By amanojaku on 6/16/2011 11:31:08 AM , Rating: 5
The article makes the claim that Itanium is dead based on a statement from Oracle. HP and Intel have denied this as recently as March of this year. Someone is either lying or mistaken, but this article doesn't point that out. Instead, it affirms the death of Itanium. Is there are source?




By phatboye on 6/16/2011 11:45:54 AM , Rating: 3
I agree, this is a poorly written article with a very misleading title. I read this article thinking it was going to be about Intel and HP announcing the EOL for IA-64.


By omnicronx on 6/16/2011 11:54:10 AM , Rating: 2
Yawn...

http://newsroom.intel.com/community/intel_newsroom...
quote:
As a result of recent announcements from Oracle, Intel is taking this opportunity to directly reiterate its plans for the Itanium processor. “Intel’s work on Intel Itanium processors and platforms continues unabated with multiple generations of chips currently in development and on schedule,” said Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel Corporation “We remain firmly committed to delivering a competitive, multi-generational roadmap for HP-UX and other operating system customers that run the Itanium architecture.” Poulson is Intel’s next generation 32nm 8 core based Itanium chip, and is on track to more than double the performance of the existing Tukwila architecture. Kittson is an officially committed roadmap product for Itanium beyond Poulson and is also in active development. Intel Itanium processor industry momentum will be highlighted in a keynote at the upcoming Beijing Intel Developer’s Forum.


RE: Something has been bothering me
By JasonMick (blog) on 6/16/2011 11:54:52 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
The article makes the claim that Itanium is dead based on a statement from Oracle. HP and Intel have denied this as recently as March of this year.

The article never says the platform is "dead" as you suggest -- just that it's going to die.

Intel and HP never denied and end of life. They just made statements like they "remained committed" to the platform. As the article states:
quote:
The only remaining question is when the platform will die.

The source for the end of life claim is Oracle. Intel has not disputed this claim directly, merely said that it remains committed to its roadmap, which stretches several years out -- not promising future development.

It's true Oracle could be lying, but given the sinking software support, it's more likely that Intel has planned a phase-out in the long-term -- maybe 6-8 years out.

Regardless, we should know for certain once documents pertaining to the case are unsealed in court.


RE: Something has been bothering me
By FITCamaro on 6/16/11, Rating: 0
By tecknurd on 6/16/2011 8:29:21 PM , Rating: 3
This sounds that you do not know anything about Itanium VS 80x86 processors. Itanium processors are different compared to 80x86. Itanium processors are another generation of EPIC processors that uses a PA-RISC method to execute code. It is very dependent on the compiler to execute code compared to 80x86 processors that is dependent on the hardware to execute code.

Going completely 64-bit means nothing. Also Intel and AMD will not lose support for legacy code or 32-bit code. Pushing everybody to 64-bit does not help to sell 64-bit. For me 32-bit systems works just fine. I do not see the need to go to 64-bit any time soon. I barely use 2 GiB of RAM.

It seems your comment is more of a rant than giving two cents.


RE: Something has been bothering me
By adiposity on 6/16/2011 12:33:55 PM , Rating: 1
There is a disconnect between these two statements:

quote:
As of March of this year, Intel's chief executive Paul Otellini remarked, "Intel's work on Intel Itanium processors and platforms continues unabated with multiple generations of chips currently in development and on schedule. We remain firmly committed to delivering a competitive, multi-generational roadmap for HP-UX and other operating system customers that run the Itanium architecture."


quote:
Now that the public knows that the platform is head for end-of-life and has little software support, it's questionable whether any major business would order the chips. The only remaining question is when the platform will die.


Jason, the fact that the "end-of-life" has not been confirmed by Intel (or anyone but Oracle) is not accurately reflected in your statement that the "public knows the platform is head[ed] for end-of-life"; perhaps you should update the article to be more accurate.


RE: Something has been bothering me
By JasonMick (blog) on 6/16/2011 12:47:02 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Jason, the fact that the "end-of-life" has not been confirmed by Intel (or anyone but Oracle) is not accurately reflected in your statement that the "public knows the platform is head[ed] for end-of-life"; perhaps you should update the article to be more accurate.

Here's my perspective. Oracle's press release explicitly said Intel approached it stating that there would be an end of life scenario.

If Oracle is lying it will likely be subject to a billion dollars or more in civil liability for damaging Intel's sales with false information in legal proceedings.

I doubt Oracle is that stupid. Hence I have given it the benefit of the doubt for now.

I expect Intel will try to transition the Itanium customers to Xeon, attempting to incorporating some of Itanium's unique features into special Xeon models. However, it likely doesn't want to SAY that it's doing that for fear that customers will switch to other vendors in the meantime.

If there's no end of life plans, it should just SAY there's no end of life plans. Saying that it's "committed" to the "roadmap" is just dancing around the EOL issue.


RE: Something has been bothering me
By gamerk2 on 6/16/2011 1:27:46 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If there's no end of life plans, it should just SAY there's no end of life plans.


Thats a BS argument JM, even for you. Intel hasn't stated that theres no EOL plans for X86, so I guess its clear that architecture is on the way out, right?

Your making an ASSUMPTION, which reporters [and I use that term loosly with you] are not supposed to do. Accusing Itanium of being EOL because Intel hasn't said its NOT EOL is not reporting.


RE: Something has been bothering me
By Samus on 6/16/2011 3:22:23 PM , Rating: 2
With Microsofts new found love for RISC, maybe Intel should consider desktop Itanium-based processors.


By adiposity on 6/16/2011 4:21:21 PM , Rating: 2
I understand your argument (and you may very well be right), but I think saying "the public knows" might be overstating it. If anything, the public is in the dark here.


RE: Something has been bothering me
By fic2 on 6/16/11, Rating: -1
RE: Something has been bothering me
By phazers on 6/16/2011 11:57:53 AM , Rating: 2
IIRC a recent marketshare report showed the Itanium market generating about $4B income last year. While a niche market, I don't see Intel abandoning it since I'm sure they got some of that $4B :P..


By DanNeely on 6/16/2011 1:16:09 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, while it's much smaller than the $30bn intel made from x86 over the same time period; it's also larger than the total revenue AMD + partners saw from Opteron.


RE: Something has been bothering me
By fic2 on 6/16/2011 2:08:29 PM , Rating: 2
Uh, income or revenue? $4B income would be great. $4B revenue may or may not be that good depending on margins.


By DanNeely on 6/16/2011 4:05:43 PM , Rating: 2
not sure, but I think it's revenue. The $4bn number came from here:

http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/06/ask-a...


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