Oracle Calls HP Suit Over Itanium a 'publicity Stunt'

Hewlett-Packard's lawsuit against Oracle over its decision to stop developing software for Intel's Itanium processors is a "publicity stunt" and meant to "lay the blame on Oracle for the disruption that will occur when HP's Itanium-based server business inevitably comes to an end," Oracle said in a court filing Wednesday.

"HP untenably has put itself and thousands of customers out on the end of a very long limb because HP, almost alone now, clings to a decades-old microprocessor architecture ... that has no future," the filing in a California superior court states. "Intel has wanted to discontinue Itanium production for years, and HP knows it."

HP is "perpetuating a myth" that Itanium has a 10-year road map and instead is "suing Oracle for the temerity to tell customers the truth," it adds.

Oracle's filing asks the court to reject an HP motion to seal records in the case, saying the litigation should "take place in the sunshine."

HP has claimed that Oracle's decision to stop supporting Itanium was in violation of commitments between the companies, and part of a plan to force HP customers onto Oracle's own hardware systems.

No such agreement exists, according to Oracle.

"The core allegation in this case -- which HP has aggressively sold to the press -- is that HP has a contract with Oracle guaranteeing that Oracle will develop new versions of its flagship database product (and apparently everything else Oracle makes) to run on HP's Itanium systems," Oracle said in its filing. "Such an important contract, if it existed, would obviously be a heavily negotiated, fully documented formal contract, with terms and conditions and payment obligations and all the other characteristics of real-world commercial agreements. But there is no such agreement for porting the Oracle database to Itanium."

In Oracle's view, the agreement amounted to a "corporate hug" between Oracle and HP following the resolution of a lawsuit HP filed against its former CEO, Mark Hurd, after he took a job as co-president of Oracle, according to the filing.

In a press release at the time, Oracle and HP said they had "reaffirmed their long-term strategic partnership" and "commitment to delivering the best products and solutions to their more than 140,000 shared customers," Oracle's filing adds. "HP cannot seriously contend that this general reaffirmation of a non-contractual 'partnership' guaranteed HP apparently perpetual new versions of Oracle software -- and pricing guarantees to boot."

During the Hurd dispute, HP asked Oracle to commit to support "all ongoing versions" of its HP-UX operating system, which runs on Itanium-based servers, with its "relevant database, middleware and application products," it adds. "Oracle unequivocally rejected the request because ... it was so out of line in that context."

HP's motion to seal its complaint, which "specifically discusses and quotes the actual Hurd settlement agreement," amounts to "vintage McCarthyism," Oracle said, referring to former U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who gained notoriety for holding hearings in which he interrogated U.S. citizens about supposed involvement with the Communist Party.

"HP is trying to use confidentiality to 'protect' commitments that do not exist," Oracle's filing states.

Meanwhile, HP and Oracle in fact had an agreement for Itanium porting, "albeit one HP nowhere mentions in its complaint," it adds.

That agreement, which was first signed in 2006, is for Oracle's E-Business Suite, and "reflects a commercial arrangement in which HP paid Oracle millions of dollars ... to port some but not all of Oracle's applications software only," it states. The agreement says "absolutely nothing" about porting Oracle's database or other products to HP-UX on Itanium.

Oracle's filing also provides what appear to be new details on its rationale for dropping Itanium support.

Earlier this year, Oracle spoke to Intel executives about Itanium in the context of discussing Oracle's Exadata database machine, which runs Intel Xeon chops. The system's "incredible performance convinced Oracle CEO Larry Ellison that Xeon systems could do anything Itanium systems could do."

Ellison told an unnamed senior Intel executive that Oracle "felt it was time to focus its software development on Xeon systems and not on Itanium systems any longer," the filing states. "The response was that Oracle's proposed change in plans was exactly the right thing to do and consistent with Intel's own plans."

As a result, "Ellison concluded -- correctly -- that even though Intel had not announced a formal end-of-life for Itanium, probably because HP did not want Intel to do so, Itanium's end-of-life had to be no more than a few years away," it adds. "Otherwise the Intel executives would have made at least some argument for continued Oracle support."

Intel has no plans to drop Itanium anytime soon, a spokesman said Wednesday, in remarks that reflect previous statements by the company.

"We haven't changed what we said back in March, which is that we're committed to Itanium. Work is continuing on Itanium processors for multiple generations going forward," said Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy. "We're not letting their litigation affect our product road map."

Meanwhile, contrary to HP's suggestion, Oracle has no intention of dropping its "Itanium-running customers like a hot rock," its filing states. "All existing versions of Oracle software for the Itanium platform will continue to be supported for years to come."

Oracle also called HP's allegation that it has refused to issue bug fixes to Itanium customers "baseless."

An HP spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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