Oracle-HP fight leaves collateral damage

Oracle's Itanium decision affects NonStop users as well

LAS VEGAS -- On Thursday, IBM announced that Balluff, a sensor maker in Germany, had replaced its HP Itanium and Oracle platform with IBM and SAP systems. That announcement came the same week the court fight between Hewlett-Packard and Oracle began, and the message seemed clear.

While IBM didn't say outright whether Balluff's migration was a result of Oracle's decision not to support new development on Itanium, there is little doubt that the move is having consequences.

Just ask Ken Huckell, an infrastructure architect at an energy trading firm that's running HP Itanium blade servers, HPUX and Oracle. Because Oracle is no longer supporting HPUX on Itanium, Huckell is eyeing a move to an HP x86 system running Linux and Oracle. The firm is now on the "cusp" of piloting that Linux/Oracle system.

Huckell, who was at HP's annual user conference here, said Oracle's decision is forcing this migration.

"We would not be doing this" otherwise, said Huckell. "There are a lot of fires to fight," he said, referring to other IT projects that need attention.

Oracle's decision to drop development of Itanium prompted the fight in court, where HP is arguing that prior agreements require Oracle to press on.

Even if HP prevails in Superior Court in California, it's too late for a change of course, said Huckell. "I think that ship has left."

One Oracle/Itanium user at the conference, who didn't want to be identified in any way, said that all Oracle's decision has done is to create "havoc."

HP didn't draw attention to the court fight, at least in the public sessions at this week's conference. But there were specific, closed-to-the-press sessions relating to Oracle and Itanium.

Users are clearly trying to sort out the issues. The real impact of Oracle's decisions on Intel's support for Itanium probably won't be known until after the court decides this case. But if Oracle's decision prompts Intel and HP to put Itanium on an end-of-life path, it will also impact NonStop users who rely on the chip.

NonStop is a faul-tolerant system that uses redundant processors and drives, and is designed to support financial services and other services that can't crash.

Robert Lesan, who heads the Connect NonStop SQL special interest group, said a platform change is of critical interest because of the costs associated with such a move. (Connect is HP's user group.) Lesan is a former NonStop administrator who now manages professional services at Xypro Technology Corp., which makes NonStop security tools.

If Itanium is near its end, then HP will likely move NonStop to the Xeon chip. If that happens, Lesan said, NonStop customers will likely want a five-year migration path so HP engineers can work out platform migration issues and make sure NonStop's multiple processors are running in synch.

"HP will have to prove quite a bit," said Lesan.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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