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HP has threatened legal action in response to Oracle's recent decision to withdraw support for its software on future Itanium processors.

In his keynote address at HP's Discover 2011 event in Las Vegas today, Martin Fink – senior vice president and general manager of HP's Business Critical Systems unit – hinted that HP will soon take aim at Oracle over the software company's shock Itanium announcement this past March, and the company has confirmed with The Register that HP's top brass recently sent a letter to Safra Catz – Oracle's co-president and chief financial officer, who runs the operations of the software giant – telling Oracle it is legally obligated to reinstate development on the Itanium platform.

The precise nature of the contracts between the two companies and their relationship with Intel are not being discussed with the press, an HP spokeswoman tells The Register. She added that the company is not going to divulge the contents of the letter or the legal arguments that HP is making since the company has not actually filed a lawsuit.

"HP believes that Oracle's March 22 statement to discontinue all future software development on the Itanium platform violates legally binding commitments Oracle has made to HP and the more than 140,000 shared HP-Oracle customers," the HP spokeswoman told us. "Further, we believe that this is an unlawful attempt to force customers from HP Itanium platforms to Oracle's own platforms.

"As a result, on June 8, HP made a formal legal demand on Oracle to reverse its decision. HP believes that Oracle is legally obligated to continue to offer its software product suite on the Itanium platform and we will take whatever legal actions are available to us necessary to protect our customers' best interests and the significant investments they have made."

Oracle declined to comment on the matter.

A source familiar with HP's demands to Oracle tells The Register that HP is requesting that Oracle to reaffirm its commitment to Itanium and also reset processor core prices for its software on the current Itanium 9300 chips from Intel. Last December, Oracle lowered its per-core pricing for software on its own Sparc processors and raised them on the latest Itanium chips.

“HP believes that Oracle is legally obligated to continue to offer its software product suite on the Itanium platform and we will take whatever legal actions are available to us necessary to protect our customers' best interests.”

It is reasonable to guess that HP is also asking for Oracle to work with HP on various benchmarks showing that HP-UX on Itanium servers and Windows or Linux on ProLiant servers delivers competitive performance on online transaction processing and data warehousing workloads when running Oracle's software stack. Oracle has apparently sat on one TPC-C benchmark test result and could be sitting on others.

It was not clear if Apotheker asked Oracle CEO Larry Ellison for a pony, a little red wagon, and a sailboat, too.

Oracle has contended from the beginning that it is HP, not Oracle, that is playing games with customers. Two days after saying it would stop software development on future Itanium chips, Oracle released a statement that basically accused HP, and Intel by extension, of being duplicitous about the future of Itanium. "HP is well aware that Intel's future direction is focused on X86 and that plans to replace Itanium with X86 are already in place," Oracle said in a statement. "HP is knowingly withholding this information from our joint Itanium customers."

And, Oracle added, it was the company's responsibility, given these facts, to give customers "adequate advanced notice when Oracle discontinues development on any software product or hardware platform so our customers have the information they need to plan and manage their businesses."

Intel didn't exactly come out swinging in HP's defense. The company kept to its party line that Poulson and Kittson were in the works and would not say more than that publicly. It would have been helpful if Intel confirmed or denied that Kittson was going to be the last Itanium processor – something it would not and has not done publicly to this day. But as we subsequently reported in mid-April, Kirk Skaugen, general manager of Intel's Data Center Group, has told Itanium customers in a letter that the chip giant was "currently starting exploratory work for what comes after Kittson".

Something other than a lawsuit with HP, presumably. ®

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