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Oracle Loses Bid To End HP Lawsuit

Oracle loses appeal to end Hewlett-Packard's lawsuit tied to Itanium server support.

California's Sixth District Court of Appeals on Thursday rejected a request by Oracle to reverse a lower-court's 2012 ruling that a contract existed between HP and Oracle requiring ongoing support for HP servers running Intel's Itanium chip.

The Itanium imbroglio erupted in 2011 when Oracle unilaterally announced that it would no longer port its database or enterprise software -- applications like Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards -- to run on the Itanium chip, which is now used almost exclusively by HP. HP responded with a lawsuit and, in August, state judge James Kleinberg backed HP's claim that a 2010 contract with Oracle explicitly required mutual product support to continue.

In his decision, Kleinberg required Oracle to continue support for HP's servers and to pay damages for losses incurred -- an amount that has yet be determined by a jury. Oracle complied with the ruling by resuming updates of its software to run on HP's Itanium servers. But Oracle also filed an objection that said the ruling "imposes on Oracle an unprecedented obligation to support the dying Itanium technology," and it filed an appeal.

[ Want more on HP's latest Itanium servers? Read HP's New Integrity Servers Use Itanium 9500 Chips. ]

The Sixth District Court of Appeals late Thursday rejected Oracle's appeal "without explanation," according to Reuters. The decision is a victory for HP and for joint HP-Oracle customers that use Itanium servers -- particularly recent buyers who previously had little hope of leveraging their investments before choosing either new software or new servers. It means that new software including enterprise applications and Oracle's new 12c database, expected to be released within weeks, will continue to be ported to run on Itanium servers.

HP hasn't backed away from developing new servers to run on Itanium chips. In November, for example, it released the Integrity Superdome 2, a Unix server that HP claims processes transactions almost three times faster than the previous model.

Nonetheless, Oracle's support move and the high-profile legal battle that followed have taken a toll on HP's sales of Itanium servers. IBM and Oracle Sun both claim to be gaining share against HP, but this high-end Unix server market is itself a shrinking pie that is losing ground to increasingly powerful commodity X86 servers.

The ongoing legal battle between Oracle and HP and the matter of damages is now in the hands of the 6th Appellate District court, and Oracle must now wait until the trial is over before filing another appeal.

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Andrew Hornback
Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/5/2013 | 6:29:03 AM
re: Oracle Loses Bid To End HP Lawsuit
Looks like we're stuck with this relic until 2014, thanks to HP's payment to Intel. I figure HP's going to try to keep Oracle strung along until then as well. This looks like a seriously expensive platform for running a database, and given the emergence of Big Data and the tools that go with it (i.e. Hadoop)... simply put, the Itanium seems to be HP's Edsel. They can pay Intel $690M to keep the chip in production, but can't execute a strategy for the mobile market? Is it any wonder that HP is in the shape that it's in right now?

Itanium is cool hardware - I get it, honestly, I do. I love my old SGI MIPS systems, but I understand their place in the modern world and doubt that I'd recommend a commercial entity putting them into a production environment (considering my Indigo2 and Octane are quite "vintage" by now), but I also don't see SGI building multi-million dollar systems using R10k chips these days either. HP, just let it go.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
User Rank: Apprentice
2/2/2013 | 4:52:43 AM
re: Oracle Loses Bid To End HP Lawsuit
Probably, I think Itanium would have eventually been down with or without Oracle's actions. If Oracle had done nothing, Itanium would have probably ended of its own momentum in the next few years anyway.

Although Unix has been losing market share to x86-Linux, I think there will still be a space for Unix for high end, mission critical workloads. Unix has a scale up architecture to 64 plus sockets, x86 requires scale out which increases complexity. IBM Power still has a performance advantage over x86. I think the primary argument for Unix instead of x86-Linux is integration. x86 is a "roll your own" from an integration perspective. You not only need to worry about many more servers, switches, I/O adapters, and other physical equipment, but you become responsible for building the platform. You are the peacemaker between OS, hypervisor, hardware, systems management vendors and their various support organizations which is a hassle as compared to a Unix system where the hypervisor is custom built for the hw, the OS is custom engineered with the hypervisor, all of the utilities are custom engineered for that platform and so forth. Unix works out of the box. x86 eventually works and can work at tremendous scale/performance but it requires much more integration at the front end and on-going management/admin. It is the age old cost of acquisition vs. total cost of ownership debate.
User Rank: Apprentice
2/2/2013 | 4:34:26 AM
re: Oracle Loses Bid To End HP Lawsuit
"particularly recent buyers who previously had little hope of leveraging their investments before choosing either new software or new servers."

A bit overstated. Oracle only stopped new development on Itanium, such as 12c, but continued to support existing users with existing Oracle software. Anyone who was on 10g or 11g could continue using Itanium without any issues, likewise on the application side such as EBS R12. As this happened in 2010 and 12c (Oracle DB being the primary concern for most people) still has not been released, it really would not have had any impact. Even if someone decided to buy Itanium servers the day before Oracle's announcement, they would have had over three years before any new Oracle DBs were released. As most people don't upgrade their DB anytime near the release date, it really wouldn't have been a problem for Itanium users. They could have finished their normal depreciation schedules.
D. Henschen
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
2/1/2013 | 9:28:52 PM
re: Oracle Loses Bid To End HP Lawsuit
This may be a case of winning the battle but losing the war. Itanium sales are down in a market (Unix) that's already losing ground to X86 servers.
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