French antitrust regulator rejects HP's demand that Oracle continue Itanium support

The regulator will continue investigating HP's complaint that Oracle prices and support policies harm HP's Itanium server business

France's antitrust regulator has declined Hewlett Packard's request for an injunction ordering Oracle to continue supporting its database on HP's Itanium server platform. HP's request that Oracle be ordered to align pricing for its database on Itanium servers with that of versions for other server architectures was similarly rejected by the Autorité de la Concurrence.

But the regulator will continue to investigate a complaint filed by HP last July (PDF) that Oracle is trying to force it out of the market for high-end servers, it said.

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HP is already pursuing Oracle through the U.S. courts over its Itanium support, and in November sought the support of other European antitrust authorities.

HP is the main vendor of Itanium-based servers and Oracle's actions are progressively evicting it from the market for mission-critical servers in France, which would be bad for buyers, according to HP.

In its complaint, HP accused Oracle of discriminating against HP's Itanium customers with its software license pricing and with its decision announced last March not to port the next version of its database software to the Itanium platform.

Oracle was far from the first to announce a move away from the Itanium platform -- Red Hat said it would do so in December 2009, followed by Microsoft in April 2010. But the relationship between HP and Oracle is particularly acrimonious, with Oracle hiring former HP CEO Mark Hurd and seeking to put his successor Leo Apotheker on the witness stand in a lawsuit against his former employer, SAP.

Oracle's actions could even constitute abuse of a dominant market position given the strong link between the markets for such servers and the market for database software of the kind Oracle sells, HP told the antitrust regulator.

Despite rejecting HP's requests for immediate relief, the regulator will continue its investigation, it said Tuesday. It will seek to establish whether the practices of which HP accuses Oracle are forcing HP out of the market for mission-critical servers, but first it will try to determine the extent to which different types of server can be substituted for one another, and the degree to which the server and database markets are linked, it said.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.

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