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Oracle Resumes HP Itanium Support--For Now

Oracle complies with a judge's ruling that it must keep developing its database and applications to run on HP's Itanium servers. But it vows to appeal.
Oracle Brings High-Tech To The High Seas
Oracle Brings High-Tech To The High Seas
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Oracle announced on Tuesday that it will comply with a court ruling handed down last month telling the company to continue to port the latest versions of its database and application software to run on Hewlett-Packard Itanium servers.

The announcement marks the close of part one of HP's breach-of-contract case against Oracle, which unilaterally announced in 2011 that it would drop support for HP's Itanium-based servers. In a decision handed down August 1, Judge James Kleinberg of the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, backed HP's claims that a September 20, 2010, contract with Oracle explicitly said that mutual product support must continue as it had in the past. Therefore, Judge Kleinberg required Oracle to continue support for HP's top-end, HP/UX servers based on the Intel Itanium chip.

Oracle filed an objection to Kleinberg's ruling that said it "imposes on Oracle an unprecedented obligation to support the dying Itanium technology." Oracle also promised to appeal the decision, but it said it would comply with the ruling in the meantime.

Oracle last year announced that Oracle Database 12c, due out in early 2013, would not be available on Itanium, but in Tuesday's statement the company reversed itself. "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. Therefore, Oracle will continue building the latest versions of its database and other software covered by the judge's ruling to HP Itanium computers," the statement said.

[ Want more on the Itanium ruling? Read Oracle Loses HP Itanium Court Battle. ]

The announcement is a victory for HP and joint HP-Oracle customers who are have invested in Itanium servers--particularly recent buyers who previously had little hope of leveraging their investments before choosing either new software or new servers. Oracle said the new versions of Oracle software will be released on approximately the same schedule as Oracle software released for IBM's Power systems.

The second part of the legal case will be a jury trial to determine whether Oracle actually breached a contract and, if so, what damages it must pay HP. A trial date has yet to be set.

HP's financial results since Oracle's unilateral end-of-support announcement reveal double-digit declines in Itanium sales, so it's clear that damage has been done. But an award would likely be far less than the $4 billion HP is seeking in its suit based on an end to the partnership and a total loss of projected Itanium revenue through the end of the decade.

More than 180,000 Itanium-based systems were sold by all vendors using the chip between 2001 and 2007, according to IDC. Sales started to decline at a double-digit rate in 2008, and HP remains one of the few manufacturers committed to the chip. After more than 25 years of partnership, HP and Oracle have more than 140,000 joint customers, but statistics are scarce on how many of those customers are running recent generations of Itanium-based servers. HP's server sales are now dominated by X86-based machines.