When Oracle halted software development on the Itanium processor (promoted by HP and Intel) in March, it seemed like a logical move to The VAR Guy. But Hewlett-Packard cried foul, alleging that Oracle has abandoned mutual partners and customers. More recently, an HP user group also has cried foul. Is this a legitimate debate or much ado about nothing? Here's the update along with The VAR Guy's two cents.

First, let's rewind to March 2011. Oracle dropped Itanium development in order to focus mainly on Intel x86 and SPARC development. It seemed like a logical move since Itanium was limited to super-niche status. Plus, Red Hat and Microsoft had previously dropped Itanium development. Nothing to see here. Move along...

... Until HP cried foul. HP alleged Oracle dropping Itanium was an anti-competitive move, since Itanium competes with SPARC -- the processor Oracle acquired as part of the Sun Microsystems buyout. More recently, HP user groups have been lobbying Oracle to re-embrace Itanium.

Real or Imagined Customer Outcry?

But here's the central question: Who's behind the HP Itanium user rally? Paying customers -- or HP itself? The VAR Guy put that question -- and a few others -- to HP. Here's how Terri Molini, worldwide public relations manager, Business Critical Systems, HP, responded.

The VAR Guy: Is HP organizing this community outcry or is the community doing it on its own?

HP: The Board of Directors at Connect, HP’s largest independent user community, reached out to its membership and urged them to provide feedback to the Connect Advocacy Committee. As mentioned in its recent communication, the Connect Board has actively engaged in conversations with HP leadership regarding the issue. Connect also recently announced it will continue to support and advocate for HP and Oracle customers using Itanium.

During the recent America’s Partner Summit, HP/Oracle Channel Partners voiced concern about the potential negative impact Oracle’s decision could have on the industry at large. In response, HP worked closely with leading VARs on the creation of a public video that could be shared with their clients and Oracle.

The VAR Guy: Did HP express similar concerns when Red Hat and Microsoft decided to discontinue Itanium development?

HP: The situations are different. The installed client base for Windows and Linux running on Itanium servers represents a small percentage of HP’s overall Integrity sales. The changes in Windows support for the Itanium architecture will not impact the roadmap for Integrity hardware or the roadmap for HP-UX, OpenVMS and NonStop running on those servers. HP’s partnership with Microsoft has been one of the oldest, strongest and deepest in the technology industry with more than 25 years of combined marketplace leadership. Sharing technology, engineering and marketing resources, HP and Microsoft have jointly engineered solutions that deploy seamlessly and deliver competitive advantage.

HP remains focused on supporting Integrity and ProLiant customers running the Linux operating system as their platform for scalable, business critical requirements. In fact, HP continues to be the leading Linux server provider, maintaining the No. 1 position in both units and revenue for more than 10 years. Additionally, according to IDC, HP was the only major server vendor to gain revenue share in the EPIC/RISC Blade server market, gaining 20.8 percentage points year over year in the fourth quarter of 2010 (to a total of 62.3 percent market share in 4CQ10).(1)

HP continues to make available and support RHEL (4 and 5). For customers that need RHEL 6 or scalable x86-based Linux solutions, the HP ProLiant family is the best path moving forward.

(1)       “Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker,” International Data Corporation (IDC), Feb. 28, 2011.

Changing Niches

The VAR Guy isn't a legal expert. But Oracle's decision to drop Itanium development doesn't sound anti-competitive to our resident blogger. More than a decade ago, HP and Intel hoped Itanium would be a mainstream server hit. But multiple delays, and some initial limitations running 32-bit apps on 64-bit Itanium, gave Itanium a black eye. Heck, even The New York Times has openly stated Itanium didn't fulfill its early promise.

Still, Itanium has some true believers, especially within large data centers. For those folks, solutions like HP-UX continue to hum along on Itanium. For the Oracle-on-Itanium crowd, The VAR Guy wonders: Just how big is that crowd, and how loud is their outcry? Hmmm...

And here's an interesting closing thought: Forrester Research speculates that even HP could potentially adjust its strategy a bit... porting HP-UX from Itanium to Intel x86.

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