HP Asks Partners To Help Change Oracle's Mind On Itanium


Hewlett Packard executives have made clear their displeasure with Oracle dropping Itanium development, and now they're urging HP channel partners to complain directly to Oracle.

HP's partner call to arms -- essentially a crowdsourcing of popular discontent for competitive purposes -- unfolded Tuesday morning at HP's Americas Partner Conference 2011 in Las Vegas. Dave Donatelli, executive vice president and general manager for HP's enterprise servers, storage, and networking business (ESSN), suggested that Oracle's decision might not be etched in stone.

"We're asking you to rally around and ask Oracle to reverse this decision," Donatelli said in a keynote speech. "Call or write -- they've changed their minds in the past on issues, and we're asking you to rally to make this happen."

HP now holds a 26 percent share of the Unix server market and since the Sun Microsystems acquisition closed last January has overtaken Oracle for the number two position in the category, according to Donatelli. And despite Oracle's 78 percent jump in profit and 37 percent revenue increase in its fiscal Q3, one area where Oracle missed was Sun hardware revenue, he noted.

Donatelli also suggested that the impact of Oracle's Itanium decision will hurt customers the most.

"In a high market share area, this is a shameless attempt to force customers to spend a lot of money to move to a platform over time that gives customers no benefits," he said. "Oracle made this decision to slow Sun SPARC market losses."

Mont Phelps, CEO of NWN, Waltham, Mass., one of HP's top national enterprise partners, said he viewed Oracles decision as anti-customer. "At NWN, we are all about the customer," he said. "When I look at what Oracle is doing I can understand how it benefits Oracle competitively, but I can't see how that is really good for the customer."

But despite HP's entreaty, some HP partners don't seem interested in pressuring Oracle to reverse course on Itanium development. "That is not our place," said Harry Zarek, president and CEO of Compugen, a Richmond Hill, Ontario HP partner. "Business is war by other means, and this is just a skirmish in the battle -- it's just normal competitive saber rattling."

Zarek does plan to discuss the matter with customers, but not with the kind of partisan tone that Donatelli is advocating that partners adopt. "We'll ask customers if there is a potential impact on their business as a result of the Oracle decision and if they want us to we will facilitate a meeting with HP or Oracle. Our role is really to facilitate. That is the role of the channel," said Zarek.

Another solution provider, who carries both Oracle and HP Itanium products and did not want to be identified, refuses to get involved in a war of words with Oracle. "I'm staying out of this," he said.

On Monday, CEO Leo Apotheker garnered applause from partners by announcing that HP has committed to at least ten years of future development and innovation on its HP-UX Unix platform and Itanium based servers.

Oracle applications are the most common software running on HP's HP-UX Unix platform, which means Oracle's Itanium move could put a significant dent in HP's business. But the fact that HP-UX Unix platform will continue for another decade has done much to soothe partner angst over Oracle's decision.

Some solution providers believe Oracle's strong-arming could actually benefit HP and its partners because it'll open customers' ears to alternatives they hadn't previously considered.

"I don’t think resellers are going to go to customers and say guess what, we're going to sell HP into your accounts. But I do think this will be an opportunity for resellers to go in and say hey, you might want to take a look at HP," said Jeff Scully, senior sales consultant at Bayshore Technologies, a Tampa, Fla.-based HP partner.