Software and systems giant Oracle has released 72 pages of court documents from its ongoing legal battle with Hewlett-Packard over support for Intel’s Itanium chipset.
The documents appear to support Oracle’s allegation that HP knew of Intel’s plan to discontinue the Itanium range, which HP uses in its mission critical servers, despite telling the market otherwise, perhaps as early as 2007.
HP sued Oracle in June 2011, after it announced that forthcoming versions of its database software would not work with Itanium chips, which HP uses in its high availability, Unix-based server range.
"HP believes that Oracle’s March 22 statement to discontinue all future software development on the Itanium platform violates legally binding commitments Oracle has made to HP and the more than 140,000 shared HP-Oracle customers. Further, we believe that this is an unlawful attempt to force customers from HP Itanium platforms to Oracle’s own platforms."
Oracle countered that HP had known about Intel’s plans to end the life of its Itanium chipset, and has been misleading customers by continuing development on the range. It later alleged that HP "secretly contracted with Intel to keep churning out Itaniums so that HP can maintain the appearance that a dead microprocessor is still alive".
Today, Oracle said it was releasing the documents in a bid to let customers "make your own decision".
One document, a presentation entitled "Extending the HP-UX Business", reveals the options HP considered for extending its HP-UX line.
The two recommended options are to continue selling Itanium devices until Intel ceased production, and port its Unix-based operating system HP-UX to Intel’s x86 architecture, a plan in launched in November 2011. The two other options mooted, but not recommended, were to unite with Oracle "against IBM" by using Sun Microsystem’s Solaris chipset, and to pay Intel to continue producing Itanium.
Also among the documents is an email, sent by Martin Fink, HP’s senior vice-president of Business Critical Systems, to Kirk Skaugen, then the vice president of Intel’s Architecture Group, just after Oracle made its original announcement.
The email reveals HP’s desire to reassure the market about the long term viability of Itanium. "We’ve been told that we can’t use the following line: ‘Intel added that it at no time communicated to Oracle a change in commitment to the future of the Itanium processor family’," Fink wrote. "This is a MAJOR, MAJOR issue. We need to be able to tell the market that you never told Oracle about EOL (end-of-life) plans for Itanium."
An internal HP email describes discussions with Chinese telecommunications equipment vendor Huawei about licensing its Itanium-based HP-UX operating system. The email, which is dated April 15th 2011, states that "the biggest issue in [Huawei’s] mind is the viability of HP-UX in the future. Intel specifically told them that the Itanium line is as end of life with two more generations to go. After that it would be Xeon [Intel’s x86 server chipset] only".
"[Huawei] believe Intel is not telling HP the same message that they have been telling the rest of the industry," it adds.
HP maintains that Intel is committed to Itanium. "Intel has provided unequivocal and repeated statements to the marketplace that Itanium is not at an end of life. The undeniable fact is there is committed support for Itanium that extends out toward the end of this decade. Statements that Itanium was at or near an end of life are false. With the unsealing of court filings, the public can see the undisputed facts of Intel’s Itanium road map clearly showing a long and sustained future for Itanium.”
The trial will begin on May 31st, unless parties do not reach a settlement before then. Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini is due to testify next month.
In November 2011, HP announced a new range of x86-based blades that fit in its UX-based mission critical systems, allowing some workloads to be run on the Windows operating system. At the time, IDC analyst Nathaniel Martinez was not simply a reaction to Oracle’s lawsuit. "There’s more to it than that," he said. "It’s about the continued expansion of the x86 universe into mission-critical systems."