Would Oracle have dropped Itanium support if it hadn't bought Sun?

Opinion

Would Oracle have dropped Itanium support if it hadn't bought Sun?

The bust up between Oracle and HP over Oracle's decision to drop support for Itanium-based servers is intriguing. To my mind, once you get past the claims and counter-claims, the only question that needs to be asked is this: would Oracle have dropped support for Itanium if it had not bought Sun and its Solaris processor architecture?

HP's case is that Oracle wouldn't have done so, claiming Oracle is using its software to boost its own hardware platform and damage a rival's, especially as nearly all Itanium-based servers are sold by HP. There's added spice in that Oracle's new co-president, Mark Hurd, used to be the CEO at that rival.

Oracle's argument is that Intel had already decided to kill off the Itanium processor and HP knew this. This may well be the case but even if it is, should people expect that Oracle, and other software companies in the same situation, continue to support the architecture and develop products for it until such time as customers have migrated to a successor platform? Of course, as with anything, there is a cut off point beyond which the software vendor is entitled to discontinue support but in this instance there may well be a legitimate question over whether that point has been reached.

Whether the law can properly adjudicate in this type of scenario is debatable. I'm inclined to believe both companies will be the losers. HP may well be forced to help customers move away from Itanium to another platform that is supported by Oracle, but customers are also likely to be a tad more circumspect about any commitments the database giant gives to hardware platforms in the future which, in turn, could cause them to look a little bit harder at alternative database providers.

This was first published in June 2011

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