It would be sad if it weren’t so entertaining: The HP-versus-Oracle spat ratcheted up again this week with Hewlett-Packard suing Oracle.
This time it’s about Oracle’s decision to deep-six software development for the Itanium chip. HP is the largest remaining purveyor of Itanium-based servers. One dummy (ahem) reported when Oracle made this move in March, that it was the least controversial thing Oracle had done in awhile. That may have been true, but it certainly was controversial to HP, which makes the lion’s share of Itanium-based hardware with Fujtitsu and Hitachi selling a few boxes as well.
HP, once a close ally of Oracle, sent a letter trying to force Oracle to reconsider its Itanium decision, hinting at contractual obligations. Oracle and its CEO Larry Ellison have said that Intel has no plans to continue Itanium development long term and that it is merely following the market. Microsoft has also said future versions of its WIndows Server operating system will not support Itanium either.
Some in the HP camp as well as even some Oracle customers feel that this time Oracle went too far and that its actions are hurting its own installed base. In March, HP exec Dave Donatelli asked a thousand or so attendees of the company’s partner conference to lobby Oracle to reconsider, alleging that Oracle’s move was made to shore up a flagging Solaris business.
Things have gone from bad to worse for this once close tech alliance since HP ousted its CEO Mark Hurd last summer and Oracle hired him as co-president. That led to charges of trade-theft by HP against Hurd. Apparently unchastened, Oracle then hired former HP (and Hurd protege) Adrian Jones, leading to yet another lawsuit.
HP fed the fire by hiring Leo Apotheker, a former president of SAP AG as its new CEO. SAP is Oracle’s main rival in enterprise applications. There is a perception that Apotheker’s hire as well as HP’s decision to put Ray Lane, a former Oracle president, on its board were motivated by a growing obsession with Oracle’s move into hardware.
Many see this as Oracle flexing its muscles now that it has its own Sun-rooted hardware franchise to protect. Before Oracle’s purchase of Sun Microsystems in January, 2010, it cultivated close alliances with hardware vendors starting with the independent Sun, then Dell and HP.
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