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Hewlett-Packard sues Oracle over Itanium support

HP wants the court to require Oracle to continue to produce software that supports the Intel server processor

Making good on a threat issued in a letter last week , Hewlett-Packard has filed a lawsuit against software giant Oracle, asking a court to require Oracle to meet what HP says are requirements that it continue to produce software that supports the Intel Itanium server processor.

In the suit, filed in a California Superior Court in Santa Clara, HP accuses Oracle of engaging in a "calculated effort to thwart competition from HP and harm its customers," and asks the court to force Oracle to live up to contractual commitments to support mutual customers by reversing a decision to stop building software for the Intanium server processor.

Oracle announced that it would cease development on Itanium-friendly software in March, sparking a very public row over a rather obscure chip, pitting Oracle against both HP and Intel, the maker of the Itanium chip.

Oracle claimed that it was simply reacting to plans in place at HP and Intel to end work on the Itanium chip, plans about which it claimed neither HP nor Intel were being honest. Both HP and Intel say that's not the case and that long-term development plans for the chip are still in place.

HP further accused Oracle of walking away from Itanium support in order to push customers toward its own hardware. It acquired Sun Microsystems last year.

Oracle's position is at least somewhat understandable given Intel's recent repositioning of its Xeon server chip as "suitable for any workload," implying that any workload the expensive and exotic Itanium can do, the more mainstream and less costly Xeon can do just as well. Incidentally, not many servers with Itanium chips are sold, and pretty close to 100 percent of them are sold by HP.

In the complaint, which is embedded below, HP accuses Oracle of failing to live up to a "clear and simple promise to work with HP in the interest of both companies' mutual customers."

HP says that Oracle worked for years in partnership with HP and Intel on the Itanium platform, a partnership that by its existence encouraged several companies to make multi-million dollar investments in HP servers containing Itanium chips running Oracle software. "The promise of future compatibility is a material consideration in the purchase decision," HP's complaint says. "Oracle has now abandoned that approach and has made clear that it will no longer be governed by the best interests of customers, by the boundaries of a partnership, or by its contractual commitments and promises."

HP says Oracle's ultimate aim was to discourage customers from buying more HP hardware and to encourage them to buy Oracle hardware. "When customers complained of critical software bugs that Oracle has a duty to fix, Oracle has refused to do so, demanding instead that customers move to the next version of the software, which Oracle says will not run HP's Itanium servers. Oracle has coupled this demand with below-cost offers to give away -- free of charge -- Sun servers that will run new versions of Oracle's software in an effort to get customers to accept Sun servers that they do not want," the complaint says.

As you can see below, the complaint has been heavily redacted; several entire sections are blacked out in order to cover up certain confidential facts, which I think likely contain specific terms of a contractual agreement between Oracle and HP.

HP Chief Information Officer Bill Wohl said HP sued after it failed to hear back from Oracle following its letter last week.

Oracle wasn't silent in public, however. Sticking to its story that there is a plan in place to nudge the Itanium chip toward the end of its life, it called HP's accusations "not true." You can read its response in full below.

REDWOOD SHORES, Calif., June 15, 2011 - Today HP filed a lawsuit claiming that Oracle had breached an agreement to support the Itanium microprocessor. 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.

It is interesting, however, that way back in September of 2010, HP asked Oracle for a long-term commitment to support Itanium. At that time Oracle did not know that there was a plan already in place to end Itanium's life. Oracle did not learn about that plan until six months later, in March 2011. We believe that HP specifically asked Oracle to guarantee long-term support for Itanium in the September of 2010 agreement because HP already knew all about Intel's plans to discontinue Itanium, and HP was concerned about what would happen when Oracle found out about that plan.

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 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.

HP issued a similar statement summing up its position. The full complaint document is below that:

HP believes that Oracle's March 22 statement to discontinue all future software development on the Itanium platform violates legally binding commitments Oracle has made to HP and the more than 140,000 shared HP-Oracle customers. Further, we believe that this is an unlawful attempt to force customers from HP Itanium platforms to Oracle's own platforms.

As a result, on June 15, HP filed a civil lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of California, for the County of Santa Clara, seeking Oracle to reverse its decision. HP believes that Oracle is legally obligated to continue to offer its software product suite on the Itanium platform and we will take whatever legal actions are available to us necessary to protect our customers' best interests and the significant investments they have made.

HP remains committed to a long-term mission-critical server roadmap, including Intel's Itanium processor. Similarly, Intel has repeatedly reinforced its ongoing commitment to the Itanium roadmap.?