Sorry HP: Oracle's right - give up on Itanium already

Yet another lawsuit: HP sues Oracle to support Itanium

HP Sues Oracle
Hewlett-Packard is doing what all losers in the IT industry do these days when it loses a technology bet: It's trying to sue its way into relevance. Case in point, HP is suing Oracle over its decision to stop supporting Itanium. Here's a hint: If you have to sue to convince a company to support your platform, it's game over and customers should be running away from that platform as quickly as possible.

HP's suit alleges that Oracle is not only saying it won't develop new versions for Itanium, but pushing bug fixes into new versions to force customers to migrate well before they usually would. To make matters worse, Oracle is offering discounts to lure customers onto its own platforms away from HP/Itanium. Oracle claims, and has several times, that Intel and HP already plan to deep-six Itanium — though Intel and HP (publicly) deny this.

While I have some sympathy for HP, this suit is really about trying to strong-arm Oracle into supporting a competing, dying platform. Red Hat and Microsoft have already kissed Itanium goodbye. Sales of Itanium systems are down, and they've never been that great to begin with.

This post by Kristie Popp, on HP's Mission Critical Computing Blog, is classic. Titled, "Commitment?!? Relationships should not be this painful!" Popp says, "The critical factor in building a viable long term relationship all comes down to: do I trust the individual and does that individual have my best interests at heart? The real question is who would you rather place your trust in: a vendor that pulls the rug out from under you, wrecking your strategic plan and increasing your overall costs? Or, a vendor like HP that has your best interests at heart?"

While I'd be hard-pressed to argue that Oracle has customers' best interests at heart (evidence that any company like Oracle has a "heart" is hard to come by), neither does HP. Popp is right, relationships shouldn't be painful — nor should they be needlessly dragged out past their expiration date. As Dan Savage often says, HP's customers need to DTMFA (look it up) and make a break with Itanium. Splitting up can be painful, to carry the relationship metaphor almost to its breaking point — but don't go to the altar with Itanium just because you've printed the invites. When Oracle, Microsoft, and Red Hat all give a thumbs down to a platform do you really think it has a happy future?

HP claims that Oracle is legally bound to support Itanium, but Oracle says this is not true. No doubt we'll see soon enough what the contracts say, but HP is doing itself and its customers a disservice by suing Oracle. It's asking another company to continue supporting a platform that it has no interest in. Is Oracle being hardnosed and trying to use Itanium's weakness as a way to move HP customers to its own platform? Duh. We're talking about Oracle here — it should come as no surprise that it's doing what's in its own interests.

But it doesn't seem to me that staying on Itanium is in the long-term interests of HP's customers either. Rather than suing Oracle, which held out on Itanium longer than some of HP's other (unsued) partners, HP should be working to provide a bridge to platforms that have a viable life. HP says it puts customers first but it's really just encouraging its customers to put good money after bad. HP needs to start moving away from Itanium and admit that it made a technology bet (along with Intel) that didn't pan out.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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