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Intel and HP defend honor of Itanium

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Intel, the maker of the Itanium family of server processors, and Hewlett-Packard, the main customer for the chips, have fired back at an Oracle announcement late yesterday that it was stopping software development on the Itanium chip.

The PR folks at Intel rousted Paul Otellini, Intel's president and chief executive officer, to make a statement denying that its commitment to Itanium was faltering, which Oracle contended was the cause of it pulling the plug on software development on the processor.

"Intel's work on Intel Itanium processors and platforms continues unabated with multiple generations of chips currently in development and on schedule," Otellini said in the statement. "We remain firmly committed to delivering a competitive, multi-generational roadmap for HP-UX and other operating system customers that run the Itanium architecture."

Intel reminded everyone that the eight-core "Poulson" Itanium processor was in the works, set to more than double the performance compared to the current quad-core "Tukwila" Itanium 9300 processors, and explained that "Kittson," the kicker to Poulson, is an officially committed roadmap product for Itanium beyond Poulson and is also in active development." The company finished by saying that industry momentum behind Itanium chips would be highlighted in a keynote at the upcoming Intel Developers Forum in Beijing, China.

In its statement, HP said it would be supporting its customers despite "Oracle's anti-customer actions," which were the result of plummeting Sparc server sales and the desire by Oracle to force customers to buy its own servers if they want to use Oracle software.

As said in our original story about Oracle's announcement, that may be the intention Oracle has (beside from creating uncertainty in general), but it may not be the effect of Oracle's announcement. At this point in the history of the RISC/Unix business, the odds would favor a large number of customers moving off HP-UX, the flagship operating system on HP's Integrity line of servers, and onto IBM's AIX operating system and its Power Systems.</p.

Not because anyone has great love of IBM, but because the company has done a better job of hitting its server roadmaps than either Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu with various Sparc chips or Intel with various Itanium chips. Then again, if HP-UX customers are nervous in general, they might be doing some math to see how big of an SMP Oracle will be able to put together running Intel's top-end Xeon parts and a Linux operating system. It may be Oracle's Linux, and then again, it may not be. Ditto for the server.

The thing to remember is that systems take years, and sometimes decades, to wind down. Customers using big iron are in no hurry and they know that Oracle will be perfectly willing to take their money for Oracle products for many years to come. No doubt, Oracle's move calls into question what to do as workloads expand on existing systems and where to put new workloads. But generally, changes with big iron usually occur at slow tectonic speeds, not earthquake speeds.

If Intel said it was stopping development on Itanium chips, that would be more like an earthquake.

HP said in its statement that it has an HP-UX operating system roadmap that goes out for more than a decade and that it will continue to support customers running on existing versions of Oracle software on current and future Itanium platforms, over that timeframe.

"Oracle continues to show a pattern of anti-customer behavior as they move to shore up their failing Sun server business," Dave Donatelli, general manager of HP's Enterprise Servers, Storage, and Networking group, said in his statement. "HP believes in fair and honest competition. Competition is good for customers, innovation and the marketplace. We are shocked that Oracle would put enterprises and governments at risk while costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity in a shameless gambit to limit fair competition."

We're not shocked at all. Oracle is not playing around, and it is the software tail that wags a lot of server dogs. Oracle wants HP's enterprise server money, and co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison and president Mark Hurd, who is probably more than a little miffed at his former employer, are going to try to get their hands on it any way they can. If HP had any sense, it would buy a software company that can emulate Oracle databases. How much do you think EnterpriseDB is worth? And how many changes can Oracle make to its databases to break whatever Oracle compatibility that its Postgres Plus Advanced Server has? ®

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