SAN JOSE, Calif. – Oracle said it will discontinue all software development for Intel's Itanium server processors. The move is seen as a big blow for the CPU, mainly motivated by Oracle's competition with rival Hewlett-Packard, the main proponent of Itanium.
In a brief press statement Oracle said it came to its decision
"after multiple conversations with Intel senior management." The statement
added that "both Microsoft and RedHat have already stopped developing
software for Itanium [and] HP CEO Leo Apotheker made no mention of Itanium in
his long and detailed presentation on the future strategic direction of HP."
Oracle said it will continue to support existing versions
of its software products that already run on Itanium.
"It's clear, [Oracle CEO Larry] Ellison enjoys poking HP whenever he can, and this is a magnitude 6 or 7 on the poke scale," said Nathan Brookwood, principal of market watcher Insight64 (Saratoga, Calif.).
HP has "multiple billions in revenues based on Itanium systems and the software that runs on them," said Brookwood. "I think this is a real problem" for Itanium users, he added.
"Oracle probably talked to key customers using the HP systems and determined they were more likely to switch to Oracle's platforms than to switch to someone else's database software," said Brookwood. "There's no love lost between Oracle and HP," he added.
Indeed, after HP fired its chief executive Mark Hurd, Ellison hired him as the president of Oracle. HP initially threatened to sue over the matter, and then decided to mend fences with Oracle.
For its part, Oracle tried to subpoena HP's new CEO, Leo Apotheker, to testify in a patent infringement suit against SAP, Apotheker's former employer. In his first weeks at HP, Apotheker was said to be avoiding HP's Palo Alto headquarters to avoid being served a court summons.
The move may indicate some desperation on Oracle's part. The company has seen its server market share slump since it acquired Sun Microsystems while rivals IBM, HP and Dell have experienced strong growth. Oracle's customers using Itanium systems likely will not want to be forced into a systems transition.
Intel was quick to reiterate its support for Itanium.
"Intel’s work on
Itanium processors and platforms continues unabated with multiple generations
of chips currently in development and on schedule," said Paul Otellini,
president and CEO of Intel in a company blog. "We remain firmly committed to
delivering a competitive, multi-generational roadmap for HP-UX and other
operating systems that run on the Itanium architecture," he added.
In February, Intel described a next-generation Itanium
processor, the eight-core Poulson, but it did not say when it will ship. HP
said with the debut of the delayed Poulson Intel is resuming a regular cadence
of new chip announcements for the architecture.
The 32nm Poulson
"is on track to more than double the performance of the existing Tukwila
architecture," according to Intel. Beyond Poulson, Intel said it has another Itanium CPU named Kittson in active development.
HP also reiterated its support for Itanium which has
"a roadmap that extends ahead more than ten years," it said.
"We are shocked that Oracle would put enterprises and
governments at risk while costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in lost
productivity in a shameless gambit to limit fair competition," said Dave
Donatelli, general manager of HP's enterprise servers, storage and networking
HP and Intel co-developed the Itanium processor architecture, Intel's first 64-bit CPU, aiming for it to become the successor to the Intel x86. Advanced Micro Devices saw a strategic opening and in 2003 rolled out its own 64-bit x86 family, the Opteron and Athlon processors.
Intel responded in 2004 with its own 64-bit X86 processors, pushing Itanium into a niche of very high-end servers. Since that time Itanium has clearly been a secondary focus for Intel's server business.