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Oracle spikes HP's Solaris OEM contract

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Solaris shops running that Unix operating system on x64-based servers from Hewlett-Packard have been notified that Oracle has spiked HP's OEM contract to distribute and sell support for Solaris on HP's ProLiant x64-based lineup of tower, rack and blade servers.

Oracle, as usual, was unwilling to comment on the matter, but a spokesperson for HP's ProLiant server unit confirmed that this has indeed happened and the contents of the letter that HP has sent to its Solaris customers, which we received from an affected reader of El Reg. Here are the important bits of the HP notification:

As you may have heard, Oracle has exercised its right to terminate HP's Solaris technical support agreement. If you have purchased Solaris 10 Subscriptions and Software Technical Support for HP ProLiant servers from HP, then you will continue to receive subscription support from Oracle and technical support from HP for the period of your contract. You will be able to purchase 1 and 3 year Solaris 10 Subscriptions and Support from HP until July1, 2010. No renewals will be accepted after this date. HP will deliver technical support through June 30, 2013. After that date, HP will no longer be in a position to provide Solaris technical support.

Additionally, starting with ProLiant G7 servers, HP will no longer certify and support Solaris on ProLiant. Solaris certified and supported ProLiant G6 servers will support up to Solaris 10 10/09 or Update 8 for the standard hardware support period (5 years from the date of shipment).

HP then went on for a few hundred words talking about how it would be happy to port ProLiant/Solaris customers to Windows or Linux - not just Red Hat and SUSE Linux, but Debian too - and reminding everyone that its Integrity HP-UX boxes exist. (Pity HP-UX doesn't run on x64 iron, though.)

HP was unwilling to explain why Oracle yanked the Solaris OEM agreement, but obviously those customers who chose Solaris to run on HP's ProLiants - which are the volume leader in the x64 server racket and therefore, to some thinking, the safe choice for x64 iron - are being left in the lurch. If that was not Oracle's intent, it is surely the effect of its actions.

HP was not the only company that inked a Solaris distribution and support sales agreement during the reign of Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's president since 2004 and chief executive officer since 2006 and the man who tried to sell Sun to IBM and then did the deed with Oracle. Dell, IBM and Fujitsu also have Solaris OEM agreements.

Brian Payne, director of server product management at Dell, confirmed to El Reg by email that Dell's Solaris OEM agreement with Sun and now Oracle remains intact, with Dell handling Level 1 and Level 2 support under a Dell ProSupport contract and Level 3 support going through Dell with Oracle brought in when the situation requires it. (This is exactly how Windows and Linux OEM support deals work on x64 servers.) And indeed, the new PowerEdge Xeon and Opteron servers announced on June 9 have Solaris as a certified and pre-installed operating system option.

Neither IBM nor Fujitsu were able to confirm that their Solaris OEM contracts are still in effect on x64 iron at press time. IBM first started shipping Solaris on selected models of its BladeCenter blade servers back in October 2005, and in August 2005 Sun and IBM inked a formal OEM agreement, just like Dell's, on three rack servers and two blade servers using a mix of Intel's Xeon and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processors.

IBM and Sun also worked together - well, a lot of words and some action - to get OpenSolaris ported to IBM's mainframes through the "Sirius" project and there was some mumbling about the two companies getting behind the "Polaris" port of OpenSolaris for IBM's Power processors. Polaris died of neglect, and El Reg reported in March that Oracle had let go of the one Sun employee working on Sirius, which means it is effectively dead unless someone wants to pick up the ball and do the work.

At the time when Sun and IBM were signing their deal, Schwartz referred to Sun's Solaris relationship with HP as "arm's length", explaining that it was not an OEM but did have a support arrangement in place. HP did rectify this in February 2009, signing its own deal with Sun to be an official OEM for Solaris on the ProLiant rack and blade machines. HP (well, Compaq) has been certifying Solaris to run on its machines since 1996, back when Sun had an earlier x86 port of Solaris available.

Sun killed off the x86 variant of its Unix with the Solaris 9 launch, but revived it with an x64 port with Solaris 10 in the hopes of building up its Solaris footprint in the data center and selling x64 servers using its own operating system. The volume play for both Solaris and Sun Fire x64-based servers has not panned out, which is why Sun was eventually eaten by Oracle for $7.4bn in January of this year.

It is hard to imagine that Oracle would spike its Solaris reseller agreement with Fujitsu for its Primergy Xeon 5600 and now PrimeQuest Xeon 7500 servers. Fujitsu was never particularly enthusiastic about peddling Solaris on its x64 machinery and much preferred to push Solaris shops to its Sparc64 line of PrimePower machines. Fujitsu resells Sun's Sparc T class machines and the two companies sell Fujitsu's Sparc Enterprise M midrange and high-end servers, which replaced the PrimePowers. The Sparc Enterprise M machines are based on the Sparc64-VII processors from Fujitsu and obviously the Japanese vendor requires a Solaris OEM agreement to be able to sell these machines. Fujitsu has been keen on doing the easy thing with its x64-based line, which is to sell Windows or Linux on the boxes.

As we previously reported, Fujitsu has confirmed that Oracle and its Japanese partner are in the midst of negotiating a new contract covering the development and sales of Sparc-based platforms. Fujitsu's new president, Masami Yamamoto, said two weeks ago that he hoped to have the deal done in a month or two. ®

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