A California state judge sided with Hewlett-Packard in a notable case Aug. 1, agreeing that Oracle has a contractual commitment to keep providing new software architected for the Intel Itanium-based servers designed by HP.
The case will now move to a jury trial to determine if HP is owed any damages as a result, and, if so, the amount it could receive, according to multiple reports. Oracle plans to appeal.
“Today’s proposed ruling is a tremendous win for HP and its customers,” HP wrote in a statement. “The Superior Court of the State of California, Santa Clara County, has confirmed the existence of a contract between HP and Oracle that requires Oracle to port its software products to HP’s Itanium-based servers. We expect Oracle to comply with its contractual obligation as ordered by the Court.”
The case hinges on the Intel Itanium chip, Intel’s first 64-bit chip, which it intended as the engine powering the server market. But Itanium’s size and cost pushed it into the upper echelons of the HPC market, confining it within just a fraction of HP’s product line.
Meanwhile, Intel’s x86-based Xeon chips competed with AMD’s Opteron chips for the broader server market, and thrived.
Since Itanium occupied such a niche space, Oracle argued that it didn’t make sense to devote the engineering resources needed to supporting the Itanium. The company committed to supporting the current Oracle software on Itanium for about ten years, and even provided a Website, complete with court documents, that it said proved that HP also felt the future of the HP-Intel relationship was based upon Xeon, rather than Itanium.
“Last March, Oracle made an engineering decision to stop future software development on the Itanium chip,” Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger wrote in a statement. “We made the decision as we became convinced that Itanium was approaching its end of life and we explained our rationale to customers here.”
Nothing in the Court’s preliminary opinion, she added, changes that fact: “We know that Oracle did not give up its fundamental right to make platform engineering decisions in the 27 words HP cites from the settlement of an unrelated
employment agreement. HP’s argument turns the concept of Silicon Valley ‘partnerships’ upside down.”
The court ruled that Oracle is in fact obligated to continue to offer its product suite on HP’s Itanium-based server platforms, based on an agreement dated Sept. 10, 2010 between Oracle, HP, and Mark Hurd.
Hurd, the former chief executive of HP, joined Oracle after being forced to resign following allegations of an improper relationship with a contractor. According to The San Jose Mercury News, the settlement Oracle and HP struck was believed to be a pledge of mutual cooperation, but HP interpreted it as a pledge to keep developing new releases, versions or updates of those products for HP’s HP-UX Itanium-based products. On Wednesday, the judge agreed.
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