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HP-Oracle: It’s war for sure, Miss Scarlett

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HP vs Oracle The hot war between HP and Oracle got quite a bit hotter last week as HP filed suit accusing Oracle of breaching contracts and demanding a jury trial in California.

The Reg has been all over this story, with articles from our pal TPM (latest here ) and Andrew Orlowski (here).

The court filing is interesting reading. It outlines the salad days of the HP-Oracle love affair, including a generous helping of quotes from Oracle about the depth and breadth of Oracle’s undying devotion to HP. The only thing missing was a link to a YouTube video of “Larry E and the SQLs” lip synching “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” outside HP corporate headquarters.

The complaint then goes on to detail how Oracle dumped Itanium, the potential damages to HP, etc. A few things jumped out at me during the first read-through. The biggest is HP’s allegation that Oracle is withholding critical bug fixes for current Oracle software on Itanium-based systems. These aren’t bugs related to Itanium hardware or the HP-UX operating system, but general bugs that always arise over time.

According to HP’s complaint, Oracle is telling customers that it won’t fix the bugs, and that the only solution is to upgrade to upcoming new editions of the software or change to current versions that contain the bug fix. Neither option includes software that will run on HP’s Itanium based systems.

I don’t know this for sure, but I’m hearing that many of these flaws in current versions of Oracle software have been fixed on editions of the packages on Windows, Solaris and Linux – but haven’t been (and won’t be) for any OS running on Itanium.

HP alleges that Oracle sales reps take advantage of this shut-out by pitching a Sun box to handle the workload, offering them at below-cost or, in some cases, free of charge.

I’ve been around a bit and have seen some pretty hard-core competitive tactics. But I can’t think of anything that sinks to this level.

If Oracle is fixing these bugs on other versions of their software but withholding the fix for customers running HP-UX on Itanium systems, it has refusal to live up to support commitment into a competitive weapon and sales tool. It’s the kind of brutal scheme that Tony Soprano and Silvio would be hatching in the back of the Bada Bing.

Taking out a contract

There were plenty of redacted sections in the complaint. Three of the ten causes of action (the part where they explain how Oracle actions were violations of legal code) were entirely blacked out.

I would guess that these sections contain references to specific contracts and relevant passages from those agreements that spell out contractual requirements. It’s common for these documents to be held under NDA by both parties, but we’ll certainly see more details of these if and when this case goes to court.

We don’t know exactly what HP is asking for; a good portion of the remedy section was blacked out. But I would assume that they’re looking for the court to rule that Oracle has to live up to contractual obligations – which includes porting their software to Itanium, I’m betting.

The non-redacted part shows HP asking for the court to tell Oracle to knock off the FUD and pay HP’s attorney fees along with damages (maybe triple damages). Oh, and they want a jury trial.

So let the drama begin. This could set up a tech court room battle like we haven’t seen since the days of the Microsoft antitrust litigation. We could see Larry Ellison and Mark Hurd on the witness stand, being grilled by hostile HP attorneys. ®

Bootnote

HP needs to do one thing right away: supply their attorneys with better scanners. While the text came across ok, the pages had a definite skew to them. It’s either a lazy manual scan, or an ADF that isn’t aligning the pages correctly on the platen. It’s annoying but easily fixed with either better hardware, better scanning software, or a better intern.

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