by Anton Shilov
03/27/2011 | 11:50 AM
Even though Oracle officially ceased to support Intel Itanium hardware platform with its forthcoming software, a decision which was motivated by the company's wish to improve positions of its SPARC-based mission-critical servers, it will still have to support existing deployments of Itanium with its software for a number of years to come, believe leading market analysts. Moreover, Oracle will also continue to support x86 and IBM Power platforms.
"The Itanium processor is now offered by just HP and SGI, with HP probably accounting for 90% of it. Intel has indicated Itanium will be phased out as Intel drives to a total x86 IA from top (Xeon) to bottom (Moorestown). [...] Supporting an OS is expensive. Given that HP is the primary user of Itanium, and there is no love lost between Oracle and HP, Oracle's decision looks more like a competitive move than a cost saving decision, although one begets the other," said Jon Peddie, the president of Jon Peddie Research, market research and consulting firm.
But customers, who buy mission-critical hardware and software demand guarantees of long-term support, which is why Oracle is obliged to help maintaining work of Intel Itanium-based servers with its software running on them.
"The problem for HP, Oracle, and SGI - and maybe some of the previous Itanium users, is the long-term support contracts they have with large companies like Boeing, insurance and banking companies, and government agencies. So Oracle's decision will stop new sales of their database software on Itanium but they will still have to support it on the installed base for several more years," explained Mr. Peddie.
"[Oracle] are still partnered [to support IA64 installed base] despite the decision to discontinue support for Itanium," said said Jessica Breen, an analyst for enterprise software for Technology Business Research, a technology market research and consulting firm.
One of the big questions that remains unanswered is whether eventually Oracle will can support of x86 and IBM Power by its programs in order to help sales of its own SPARC servers and thus maximize its margins and profitability. Analysts do not believe that Oracle will cease to support x86 and IBM Power in the mid-term, but nobody can predict Oracle's long-term decisions.
"HP will do just fine regardless [Oracle's support of the Itanium], but as Oracle is trying to become a leader in hardware, I think the move was to stifle some of HP's ability to compete. I think Oracle will try to keep x86 sales to a minimum and stop delivering the hardware to maximize hardware margins, but they will continue to support x86 with their software since halting support would be shooting themselves in the foot. A lot of enterprise businesses run on x86 and it is imperative for cloud/virtual environments," explained Ms Breen.
"IBM power is in a lot of long term situations too, but Oracle does not hate IBM and in fact Oracel got started on IBM servers, the first few years of its history it was all (and only for while) IBM based," said Mr. Peddie.