A California state judge ruled on Wednesday that Oracle will have to continue supporting and releasing new versions of its software designed for Intel Itanium-based servers sold by Hewlett-Packard. The judge said that an agreement between HP and Oracle regarding release of software compatible with Itanium did exist and that Oracle is obliged to follow it. The latter will appeal the decision.
"Today’s proposed ruling is a tremendous win for HP and its customers. The superior court of the state of California, Santa Clara County, has confirmed the existence of a contract between HP and Oracle that requires Oracle to port its software products to HP’s Itanium-based servers. We expect Oracle to comply with its contractual obligation as ordered by the court," a statement by HP claims.
On Wednesday, the court revealed that the settlement and release agreement entered into by HP, Oracle and Mark Hurd (ex-CEO of HP and the president of Oracle now) on September 20, 2010, requires Oracle to continue to offer its product suite on HP’s Itanium-based server platforms and does not confer on Oracle the discretion to decide whether to do so or not. The terms “product suite” means Oracle software products that were offered on HP’s Itanium-based servers at the time Oracle signed the September 20, 2010 agreement, including any new releases, versions or updates of those products.
Oracle’s obligation to continue to offer its products on HP’s Itanium-based server platforms lasts until such time as HP discontinues the sales of its Itanium-based servers. Oracle is ordered to port its products to HP’s Itanium-based servers without charge to HP.
In early 2011 Oracle said it would not release new versions of its popular server software for platforms based on Itanium microprocessor. Oracle believes that HP mislead its customers by not disclosing peculiarities of Itanium's future and that Oracle's own decision to stop developing new software for Itanium was fully legitimate. HP believes that Oracle breached a contract and did so in a bid to improve competitive landscape on the business-critical server market in favour of its own Sun SPARC servers.
“Last March, Oracle made an engineering decision to stop future software development on the Itanium chip. We made the decision as we became convinced that Itanium was approaching its end of life and we explained our rationale to customers here: www.oracle.com/itanium. Nothing in the Court's preliminary opinion changes that fact. We know that Oracle did not give up its fundamental right to make platform engineering decisions in the 27 words HP cites from the settlement of an unrelated employment agreement. HP’s argument turns the concept of Silicon Valley ‘partnerships’ upside down. We plan to appeal the Court's ruling while fully litigating our cross claims that HP misled both its partners and customers,” said Deborah Hellinger, a spokeswoman for Oracle.
Hewlett-Packard needs to keep Itanium microprocessor alive and improving for several years from now because its mission-critical platforms, such as HP-UX, OpenVMS or NonStop, rely on those chips and it will take years before they are ported to Intel Xeon architecture. But HP may need to speed-up its porting efforts as sales of its Integrity and Superdome IA64-based machines have been declining for several consecutive quarters now.