It's clear that at least part of the animus stems from HP's fury over Oracle's decision to hire Mark Hurd after he was fired by HP. (Don't believe me? Read the complaint.) But the real issue, of course, is money. HP's high-end server business is worth billions of dollars in hardware, software, and services revenue, says Nathan Brookwood, a principal analyst at semiconductor consulting firm Insight64. And Oracle obviously would be happy to poach HP customers and move them to its servers.
But while Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and HP CEO Léo Apotheker act like George and Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," their kids -- the IT customers, that is -- are looking like victims.
Is Itanium really dying?
The Itanium microprocessor, once meant to be the successor to the venerable x86, has never been a great success. But is it really close to the end?
Oracle says to look at Intel's processor road map, which includes Itanium versions known as Poulson and Kittson that will be in production around 2013. Beyond that, Itanium isn't there. It's worth noting that Microsoft and Red Hat have both stopped developing software for Itanium, and both Dell and IBM ceased making Itanium-based servers years ago. HP itself has steadily pulled back from Itanium, dropping its Itanium workstations in 2004 for lack of demand and ending its own development and production of Itanium chips the same year. But it continues to make and sell Itanium-based servers.
What's more, HP knows that Itanium is nearing the end, says Oracle, which claims that it was tricked into signing an agreement in 2010 promising long-term software support for Itanium. "We believe that HP specifically asked Oracle to guarantee long-term support for Itanium in the September 2010 agreement because HP already knew all about Intel's plans to discontinue Itanium, and HP was concerned about what would happen when Oracle found out about that plan," Oracle says in a statement emailed to reporters. Oracle found out about the end of Itanium in March 2011, it says.
Why would Intel's CEO say that Itanium is not nearing end of life? "HP is Intel's biggest customer. They need to be very delicate," says one Oracle executive.