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IT shops call on HP and Oracle to kiss and make up

With new leadership at HP, the time is now for Oracle and HP to restart stalled negotiations on Intel Itanium support.

It’s been more than six months since Oracle announced it would cease development of its software stack on Intel Itanium, and Itanium-based Hewlett-Packard Integrity shops are getting antsy.

In the early days after Oracle dropped that first bombshell, pundits predicted that resolution would be swift, involving a big check from HP to Oracle. But that agreement never came and the two companies are now mired in litigation.

Some joint HP/Oracle customers hope HP’s newly appointed CEO Meg Whitman will move things in the right direction.

A seeming standstill

Judging from the lack of progress and litigation, it doesn’t appear that Oracle and HP under former CEO Leo Apotheker were talking much, said Olaf Leonhardt, a systems administrator at Manor AG, a Swiss department store that runs internal applications on Oracle and OpenVMS.

“The CEO has changed at HP; we are hoping for the situation to become clearer in the next two or three months,” Leonhardt said.

It’s possible the two companies are involved in behind-the-scenes negotiations, but industry observers agree that now is the time for new HP leadership to move things along.

“The issue of relationships with core suppliers has to be a key issue for Whitman, [David] Donatelli and the board to take up in the next couple of months,” said Jonathan Eunice, principal IT advisor at Illuminata in Nashua, N.H.

To be clear, though, the problems between HP and Oracle predate Apotheker’s arrival, and won’t be solved by his departure. While the two companies were once very tight, Oracle’s entrance into the systems market with the acquisition of Sun Microsystems, HP’s moves to get into the database business, plus the former CEO’s Mark Hurd’s firing and subsequent re-emergence as Oracle’s president have all served to sour relations between the two companies.

HP also has a lot of other big problems on its plate, namely whether or not to spin out its PC business, complete its Autonomy acquisition and generally re-establish trust with its customers after a rocky period under Apotheker.

The way forward?

That done, joint customers sincerely hope the two companies will find a way for Oracle to support Oracle on Itanium. But barring that, Leonhardt said he would also be satisfied by HP agreeing to port OpenVMS to x86, which Oracle has told them it would support. That would be a far less onerous proposition that porting its internal 20-year-old OpenVMS application to a new platform, he said.

“OpenVMS is very stable; it is a real cluster,” Leonhardt said. “With OpenVMS running on x86, we could go for another 10 or 15 years,” he predicted.

Migrating its application to Linux, on the other hand, “would cost millions of hours.”

But the likelihood that HP will port OpenVMS or HP-UX to x86 is slim to none, said Illuminata’s Eunice.

“The problem isn’t whether it’s technically possible – it is – it’s whether the ecosystem will follow you there,” Eunice said.

OpenVMS, in particular, would be a messy operating system to port, Eunice said. “I call it a ‘guts-exposed’ operating system; it doesn’t have much of an abstraction layer to simplify the movement to a new chipset." Plus, OpenVMS has been ported several times already over the course of its 30-plus-year history, he pointed out. It started out life on the VAX, then moved to the DEC Alpha chip, and finally to Itanium. "The prospect of another port is unpalatable,” Eunice said.

Where does that leave users like Manor AG?

“One of the things we always recommend is to future-proof your environment as much as possible,” Eunice said, by incorporating as many abstraction layers as possible to remove hard dependencies from the underlying hardware and operating system platforms.

And if that’s not an option?

“The average shop does not need to make a call right this minute, although they do need to evaluate their options,” Eunice said. “My advice is to tread water.”

Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, Executive Editor at, or follow @aebarrett on twitter.

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