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HP sues Oracle over Itanic withdrawal

Oracle again insists Itanium is sinking

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Hewlett-Packard has sued Oracle, just like it threatened it might last week, over the software giant's refusal to support the Itanium processor with future releases of its database, middleware, and application software.

The complaint, filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Wednesday, asserts ten grievances against HPs former best buddy. The first three are redacted with black marker, but the remaining claims include breach of implied contract, promissory estoppel, defamation-libel, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, and three alleged violations of California's business and professional code.

It's not clear what kind of communication – or lack thereof – has been going on between the two companies and Itanium manufacturer Intel prior to the announcement by Oracle on March 22 that it would not support Itanium with future software. But relations have clearly broken down completely between Oracle and HP, and not just because HP former CEO and chairman Mark Hurd jumped ship last year to become co-president at Oracle.

On June 8, HP sent a letter to Oracle Co-president and Chief Financial Officer Safra Catz outlining demands for Oracle to honor its commitments to HP and to Itanium, without elaborating what those contractual commitments were. The Register was able to obtain a formal statement from HP on the matter. This statement, edited slightly to reflect the filing of the lawsuit instead of a threat of one, has been updated.

"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. Further, we believe that this is an unlawful attempt to force customers from HP Itanium platforms to Oracle's own platforms."

The complaint seeks to reverse Oracle's decision, and HP says it is doing so to protect the investments of some 140,000 shared Oracle-HP customers. (It seems highly unlikely that more than a fraction of these customers are running Oracle software on Itanium servers.)

"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. HP remains committed to a long-term mission-critical server roadmap, including Intel's Itanium processor. Similarly, Intel has repeatedly reinforced its ongoing commitment to the Itanium roadmap."

Neither Catz nor anyone else from Oracle responded to HP's June 8 letter.

Oracle fired back immediately once the lawsuit was filed, however, with a statement of its own. It bears reprinting at length, since Oracle is accusing HP of deception regarding the future of the Itanium processor and therefore HP's Integrity server platforms, which account for the vast majority of Itanium sales these days and which generally run HP-UX or OpenVMS operating systems from HP.

Today HP filed a lawsuit claiming that Oracle had breached an agreement to support the Itanium microprocessor. It just takes a few minutes to read the early drafts of the agreement to prove that HP's claim is not true. What is true is that HP explicitly asked Oracle to guarantee continued support for Itanium; but Oracle refused, and HP's Itanium support guarantee wording was deleted from the final signed agreement.

"It is interesting, however, that way back in September of 2010, HP asked Oracle for a long-term commitment to support Itanium. At that time Oracle did not know that there was a plan already in place to end Itanium's life. Oracle did not learn about that plan until six months later, in March 2011. We believe that HP specifically asked Oracle to guarantee long-term support for Itanium in the September of 2010 agreement because HP already knew all about Intel's plans to discontinue Itanium, and HP was concerned about what would happen when Oracle found out about that plan.

What we know for certain is that Ray Lane and HP's current board members and Leo Apotheker and HP's current management team now know full well that Intel has plans in place to end-of-life of the Itanium microprocessor. Knowing this, HP issued numerous public statements in an attempt mislead and deceive their customers and shareholders into believing that these plans to end-of-life Itanium do not exist. But they do. Intel's plans to end-of-life Itanium will be revealed in court now that HP has filed this utterly malicious and meritless lawsuit against Oracle.

The Register has obtained a copy of the lawsuit and is analyzing it now. Stay tuned. ®

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