Hewlett-Packard has filed suit against systems giant Oracle, challenging its decision to stop developing software for a chip architecture that runs a large portion of HP servers.
The lawsuit, filed in a California state court, accuses Oracle of illegal, anticompetitive behaviour by deciding that future versions of its database software will not run on Intel’s Itanium chips, and therefore will not work with HP’s Integrity servers.
It alleges that Oracle is violating an "implied contract" by dropping support, and using "strong-arm tactics" to push customers who currently use HP servers onto Oracle hardware.
"In a mere eight months, Oracle has gone from arm-in-arm partnership with Hewlett-Packard to bitter antagonist," it claims.
HP claims that around 140,000 customers currently use Oracle software on HP hardware. Oracle announced its intention to discontinue all software development for the Itanium processor in March 2011.
In a statement given to Information Age, HP alleged that Oracle’s motivation in discontinuing support for Itanium was to persuade customers to adopt its own server systems, based on hardware it acquired along with Sun Microsystems last year. "We believe that this is an unlawful attempt to force customers from HP Itanium platforms to Oracle’s own platforms," HP said.
Oracle denies the claims. In a press release, it claimed that Intel itself plans to discontinue the Itanium range of chips, and that HP is trying to minimse the damage to its business.
"We believe that HP specifically asked Oracle to guarantee long-term support for Itanium … because HP already knew all about Intel’s plans to discontinue Itanium, and HP was concerned about what would happen when Oracle found out about that plan," the press release alleged.
"What we know for certain is that [former Oracle executive, now HP chairman] Ray Lane and HP’s current board members and Leo Apotheker and HP’s current management team now know full well that Intel has plans in place to end-of-life of the Itanium microprocessor.
"Knowing this, HP issued numerous public statements in an attempt to mislead and deceive their customers and shareholders into believing that these plans to end-of-life Itanium do not exist. But they do. Intel’s plans to end-of-life Itanium will be revealed in court now that HP has filed this utterly malicious and meritless lawsuit against Oracle."
As recently as March, Intel said that work on Itanium processors would continue unabated, and that multiple chips were in development.
"We remain firmly committed to delivering a competitive, multi-generational roadmap for HP-UX and other operating system customers that run the Itanium architecture," Paul Otellini, Intel’s CEO, said at the time.
Information Age contacted Intel for comment, but was referred to Intel’s announcement at April’s Developer Forum in Beijing, where Intel VP Kirk Skaugen said the the next generation of Itanium processor, "Poulson" would launch on schedule in 2012.