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Is IBM next on Oracle's hit list?

With HP Integrity systems out of the way, Oracle has set the stage for discontinuing development on additional platforms.

Now that Oracle has discontinued development on the Intel Itanium-based HP Integrity platform, IT professionals are wondering which other platforms are slated for the chopping block?

Framed around the pretext of dwindling market share for Intel Itanium, Oracle said last week that it would stop developing its database, business software and middleware for HP-UX, although it will continue to support existing systems for a number of years. That winnows the list of platforms for which Oracle develops to Windows, Linux, Solaris, HP-UX on legacy PA-RISC chips and IBM AIX.

HP may not be the only one that Oracle ‘defriends.’

Jonathan Eunice, principal IT adviser at Illuminata

Oracle’s move was hotly criticized by both HP and Intel, and it’s easy to see why. Regardless of Itanium’s future, HP counts 140,000 Oracle customers on its platforms, an HP spokesperson told the E-Commerce Times. It’s unclear what portion of that business goes to Integrity versus the x86-based ProLiant, but there’s little doubt that it represents a pretty penny. Some pundits say that over 50% of HP Superdomes run some degree of Oracle software.

Oracle Power play
Meanwhile, could Oracle shops running on anything besides Sun/Oracle hardware see the Redwood, Calif., giant pull the plug on their platform? Opinions are mixed.

 “I don’t think that’s beyond the realm of possibility at all,” said Jonathan Eunice, principal IT adviser at Illuminata. “HP may not be the only one that Oracle ‘defriends.’”

The most obvious platforms that Oracle could choose to stop development on would be IBM Power, which leads the Unix market in terms of share, and whose System P machines run a healthy portion of mission-critical Oracle bits.

“If I were running Oracle on Power, I would start putting a roadmap together on how to get off Oracle,” said a former IT architect with a Fortune 500 manufacturing firm who now works for an Oracle partner. “I lost faith in Oracle a long time ago, in terms of them being upstanding,” he added. “They’re just in it for the money.”

As odious as a database migration project may be, IBM has a credible alternative to Oracle in DB2, and Oracle’s hardball tactics may have sufficiently alienated IT decision makers to make the migration pill easier to swallow.

At the same time, the sheer scope of IBM’s Unix business may prevent that from ever coming to pass.

“We … doubt they would discontinue support for IBM AIX in the near future, as the numbers there are large enough to continue the work,” said Chris Rima, supervisor for infrastructure systems at Tuscon Electric Power, an Oracle customer that runs the software on a mix of Sun Sparc and x86. He added that in customer advisory meetings, Oracle had promised a long-term commitment to Solaris and Sparc, as well as Red Hat Enteprise Linux.

Whatever the case, Oracle customers should start having serious conversations with their account managers about Oracle’s intentions and get any promises of continued support in writing, said Illuminata’s Eunice.

And then, of course, there’s the distinct possibility that HP and Intel may secure an agreement from Oracle (for beacoup bucks) to keep supporting Itanium for a long time to come. That’s certainly not unprecedented in the IT world, Eunice said, citing the 2006 agreement between HP and IBM to expand the range of IBM middleware running on HP-UX.

“I would give this a little time to settle,” said Eunice. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they find a way to work this out, and in retrospect, it seems like a bit of a Chinese fire drill.”

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

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