Oracle's Itanium Move Shakes Up IT Agendas

The vendor's decision to end software support for the Intel server chip could force expensive IT infrastructure changes.

Technology executives at companies running Oracle databases and applications on Hewlett-Packard servers say that Oracle's decision to stop supporting Intel's Itanium chips could force them to undertake expensive hardware and software upgrades.

In a terse statement late last month, Oracle said it would stop further development of its software for Itanium-based servers, reasoning that Intel's strategic focus was on the x86 architecture and that Itanium was nearing the end of its life. Oracle also cited earlier decisions by Microsoft and Red Hat to end Itanium support.

The move came as a surprise to Hewlett-Packard, which ships the majority of Itanium-based servers.

"We are shocked that Oracle would put enterprises and governments at risk while costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity," said Dave Donatelli, executive vice president for enterprise servers, storage and networking at HP.

HP said it will help customers migrate to other database software on Integrity servers.

At the same time, Intel CEO Paul Otellini issued a statement saying that the company remains "firmly committed" to upgrading Itanium technology.

Jim McGregor, an analyst at In-Stat, suggested that Oracle renounced Itanium to lure buyers into purchasing its proprietary or x86-based Sun servers to run Oracle software.

Mel Burslan, a senior systems engineer at HD Supply, a San Diego-based wholesale supply company, said Oracle's decision makes any plan to expand his company's deployment of HP-UX-based Integrity servers "look bleak."

HD Supply is slowly moving from HP-UX to Linux, but the cost of any move away from Itanium-based Integrity servers "would be [at the] several-millions-of-dollars level just for the hardware costs, and then a hefty sum for the consulting and additional manpower requirements," Burslan said.

Todd Sheetz, manager of database administration and enterprise architecture at Veolia Environmental Services North America, said Oracle's announcement could end up accelerating the Chicago-based firm's migration efforts. The company was already evaluating options for moving from Itanium to a new chip architecture, Sheetz said.

Veolia runs Oracle's PeopleSoft ERP system on HP-UX-based Integrity servers, and its database software on x86 servers running Linux.

"The only real option is to migrate to a different chip technology and therefore operating system. Since we are running Linux for the database, that will more than likely be the direction for the application stack as well," Sheetz said.

The company is leaning toward moving the PeopleSoft software stack to Linux on x86 systems, mostly because of cost considerations, Sheetz said.

"Support and maintenance [costs] for Itanium servers and HP-UX are much higher than x86 and Linux-based systems," Sheetz said.

Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT, said that as Oracle moves away from Itanium support, "whatever performance customers can wrest out of their current systems is about as good as it's going to get."

"Customers that have invested on Itanium and Oracle together are going to have to start investigating other options for maximizing their performance," he added.

Shah is a reporter for the IDG News Service. Dan Nystedt of the IDG News Service contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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