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Oracle Pulls Plug on Itanium, Sets Off Hullabaloo

It said overnight Tuesday that it wouldn’t write any more software for the thing

Oracle has taken the Intel-HP Itanium chip - the one ex-Sun CEO Scott McNealy used to razz as the "Itanic" - and stomped it flat.

It said overnight Tuesday that it wouldn't write any more software for the thing.

Since HP is one of the only companies still using the part and since there's a feud going on between Oracle and HP, one might assume that Larry Ellison and his new boy, the famously cost-cutting ex-HP CEO Mark Hurd, are getting back at box rival HP, which has got high-end HP-UX-run Itanium blades and Superdomes to sell.

After all, Oracle now has its own thinly supported Sparc chip to worry about in addition to its x86 hardware.

Oracle's public statement claimed that in "multiple conversations...Intel management made it clear that their strategic focus is on their x86 microprocessor and that Itanium was nearing the end of its life."

Besides, "Both Microsoft and Red Hat 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."

After Intel woke up and saw that on the wires Intel CEO Paul Otellini rushed out a denial saying, "Intel's work on Intel Itanium processors and platforms continues unabated with multiple generations of chips currently in development and on schedule. We remain firmly committed to delivering a competitive, multi-generational roadmap for HP-UX and other operating system customers that run the Itanium architecture."

Intel reiterated that Poulson is its next-generation 32nm eight-core Itanium chip and is supposed to more than double the performance of the existing (and horribly late) Tukwila architecture. It said Kittson, which it described as an "officially committed roadmap product for Itanium beyond Poulson," was also in active development.

Then HP, busy Wednesday morning with a shareholders meeting, put its two cents in.

Dave Donatelli, HP's head of servers, storage and network, came out decrying Oracle's "disinformation" as "clearly an attempt to force customers into purchasing Sun servers in a desperate move to slow their declining market share."

He professed to be "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."

"Oracle continues to show a pattern of anti-customer behavior as they move to shore up their failing Sun server business. HP believes in fair and honest competition. Competition is good for customers, innovation and the marketplace."

HP insiders claim HP could get better performance out of the x86 Intel Xeon chip these days but company pride - HP did after all push Intel into the misguided Itanium chip - and the cost its installed base would incur moving to the x86 architecture prevent it from dropping the platform.

Donatelli claimed in his statement that the Itanium roadmap extends out more than 10 years and asserted that HP will continue to support customers running existing versions of Oracle software on its Integrity servers, both existing and future platforms, during that timeframe.

It's unclear what HP can do about patches and updates if they're not forthcoming.

Oracle, however, said it will continue to support existing versions of its software that customers are already running on Itanium.

For what it's worth - back at the height of Unix proliferation - Oracle used to complain about having to support a lot of operating systems; no reason to think hardware's any different.

Microsoft said last year that Windows Server 2008 R2 would be its last operating system to support the Itanium. With Red Hat it's Enterprise Linux 6. Rumor has it Microsoft is about to terminate all support for Itanium in a few weeks since it represents so little of its installed base.

By the way, the Wall Street Journal noticed that an annual IEEE workshop on Itanium, scheduled for the beginning of April, has been cancelled without any explanation.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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