3000 products remain on sale at Quest
OpenMPE gets notice of its day in court

Oracle steps off Itanium; Intel stays on rails

There's no love lost these days between Oracle and HP, a pair of vendors who are serving more than a few HP 3000 migration customers. Oracle's often the database that corporate IT HQ dictates to 3000-using divisions. For a serious share of the transition-bound customer, HP's Unix drives the apps bought off the shelf to replace MPE software.

Oracle announced yesterday that it's ending development for the processor line that drives HP-UX, curtailing work for the Itanium 2 chips inside HP's Integrity servers. Just a year ago the Itanium clan was pleased to announce Oracle's Business Suite 12 was ported to the latest Itanium chips. Twelve months later Oracle has completed its Sun acquisition, sells systems to compete with Integrity servers in a group by former HP CEO Mark Hurd -- and wants the world to believe Intel is stepping back from Itanium, too.

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

Oracle wants to believe that something it heard in an Intel briefing spells an end of life for the chip that holds the future for HP-UX. More to the point, it wants the customers who invest in HP's Integrity servers to believe that. Some software experts say that Oracle's probably lost the tech resources needed to keep up with Itanium.

"I question that Oracle has the technical capability to long-term develop on [Itanium]," said one engineer inside HP who's supporting enterprise alternatives to MPE/iX. "This announcement from Oracle is just a couple of vendors poking each other in the eye, but has little substance."

HP's Dave Donatelli, head of the company's server business, called the Oracle play a grandstand move.

“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,” Donatelli said in a statement.

While there's been a steady exodus from Unix to Linux over the last five years, Oracle seems to want to throw dirt on one of its oldest partners in the Unix business. "It just sounds like Larry Ellison and Oracle trying to put a spin on something they (mis-)heard from their Intel buddies, so as to make HP look bad as part of their ongoing personality problems and feud," said another developer working in both MPE/iX and Itanium systems.

Oracle issued a compact shot across HP's bow yesterday with Oracle's Itanium exit news.

After multiple conversations with Intel senior management, Oracle has decided to discontinue all software development on the Intel Itanium microprocessor. Intel management made it clear that their strategic focus is on their x86 microprocessor and that Itanium was nearing the end of its life.

Both Microsoft and RedHat have already stopped developing software for Itanium.  HP CEO Leo Apotheker made no mention of Itanium in his long and detailed presentation on the future strategic direction of HP.

This kind of advice from a competitor is common fare in the Unix world, where both HP and Sun made customers question the career moves of staying with Solaris or HP-UX. While Oracle was eager to point out it believes there's no future in Itanium, it was careful to add in its announcement that "Oracle will continue to provide customers with support for existing versions of Oracle software products that already run on Itanium."

What Oracle never makes clear in its announcement is that it now sells servers that compete directly with Itanium. You can only imagine what might have been said in those multiple conversations, but the 3000 shops steering toward Itanium might dream up this exchange between Intel's Otellini and Oracle's Ellison:

Oracle: Paul, are you going to stop making that Itanium stuff?

Intel: That's never even come up in a meeting.

Oracle: Why not? Nobody's buying it but HP. And we're selling the databases those HP Unix customers need for it.

Intel: Larry, we sell enough Itanium to keep our developers busy. How about your Itanium developers?

(Sound of shuffling papers and scraping chairs)

Oracle: Paul, we're going to use our developers on other projects. We just wanted to know if you were going to keep Itanium as a little side project. Or put it down.

Intel: We'll let you know when it looks like the end of life for Itanium. We work on a lot of technologies at once here. I bet you're spreading out like that over there now, with all that Sun hardware business. Larry, how's it looking for us getting some processors into those servers of yours? Isn't that Sparc stuff a little out of date?

Oracle: Mark Hurd says you're focusing on x86, right?

Intel: Larry, you really need to get off the sailboat and into the office a little more. Everybody knows that. We always wondered what Hurd had against Itanium. He never mentioned it in any long, detailed presentations before he left HP.

Oracle: Hold on; I'm coming about and trimming the sail. There. I got a summary of that Leo guy's speech from Hurd. Nothing in there about Itanium.

Intel: So then nothing's changed about HP's Itanium plan, has it?

Oracle: Paul, you're breaking up. Must be the damn Golden Gate getting in the way of the cell. Nice talking with you again.