HP Letter To Oracle Hints Of Legal Action Over Itanium


Hewlett Packard is invoking the specter of legal action in a renewed effort to get Oracle to reverse its decision to halt development of software running on Intel's Itanium processors.

HP on Wednesday sent a formal legal demand to Oracle asserting that Larry Ellison and company are legally obligated to continue developing software for Itanium. In the letter, which HP isn't releasing, HP claims Oracle is violating legally binding commitments with HP and with the two companies' estimated 140,000 common customers.

"It is our hope that Oracle will honor its commitments to HP and to our shared customers,” HP said in a statement. “However, if Oracle continues to disregard its commitments, and continues to engage in conduct designed to deny choice and harm competition, we will take whatever legal actions are available to us necessary to protect our customers and the significant investments they have made."

Many of the customers affected by Oracle's scuttling of Itanium development are financial and healthcare services firms that rely heavily on databases to run transaction processing in their day to day business, according to Nina Buik, chief marketing officer for Connect, an HP user community with 53,000 members in 60 countries worldwide.

Buik says customer frustration in the wake of Oracle's March 22 decision hasn't waned. "Customers are extremely unhappy with Oracle -- they feel like they've been cut off at the knees," said Buik. "You don't realize your return on investment for around seven years for capex of [the size that server deployments require]."

HP's Integrity Unix servers, NonStop servers, and OpenVMS servers are all based on Itanium. And because Oracle applications are the most common software run on HP's HP-UX Unix platform, Oracle dropping Itanium stands to put a major dent in HP's and partners' businesses.

At HP's Americas Partner Conference in late March, CEO Leo Apotheker called Oracle's Itanium decision "a rather clumsy attempt by Oracle to try and prop up a failing and deteriorating Sun server business."

Dave Donatelli, executive vice president and general manager for HP's enterprise servers, storage, and networking business (ESSN) went further, urging HP channel partners to complain directly to Oracle.

HP has also been blowing up Twitter with posts drawing attention to the hardship Oracle's move is placing on customers. But it's a very tricky situation, not just for HP customers but also for HP channel partners. The reality is that many partners have relationships with both companies, and given Oracle's reputed tendency to track down voices of dissent, they're understandably reluctant to heed HP's call.

What HP would like to see happen is for Oracle to reverse course on Itanium as it did in the wake of its decision to halt software maintenance for Peoplesoft, JDE and Siebel after acquiring these firms. That hasn't happened yet, and so HP is now apparently taking the issue to the next level -- and possibly, into the courtroom.