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HP shops explore Oracle exit strategies

Businesses running Oracle databases and apps atop HP-Itanium servers are plotting exit strategies.

Shops running Oracle databases and applications atop Itanium-based HP Integrity servers are exploring their options, none of them good.

Last month Oracle said it would end software development for the Intel Itanium chips that power HP Integrity boxes.

For most -- but not all -- HP shops, the Oracle-Itanium snafu will not come to a head for several years, as many of them are not yet on the latest release of Oracle, and can thus afford to stall a bit, said Richard Fichera, principal analyst at Forrester Research in a blog earlier this week.

However, HP shops running on Oracle 11g will have to make some decisions, and fast. The main options include migrating from HP-UX to Linux; or to Oracle Sparc or IBM Power servers, Fichera said.

None of these options appeal to HP shops. Time and effort notwithstanding, all these solutions play into Oracle’s plan, and HP shops, vexed by this move, want to avoid doing anything that could work to Oracle’s advantage. These users suspect that Oracle de-supported Itanium to shore up Oracle’s flagging hardware efforts. Last year, both Oracle and HP lost Unix server market share. HP’s slice of the pie fell to 25.8% from 26.2% year over year. Oracle/Sun share fell to 23% from 25.5% for the same period, according to IDC.

“Customer emotions are running high around this event,” Fichera wrote. “Every client that I have spoken to feels like they have been directly attacked by Oracle, and a common thread running through all of the discussions I have had is ‘How can I move forward in a fashion that does not reward Oracle for this behavior?’”

Thinking about the unthinkable
That’s prompting some HP-Oracle shops to consider something that would have been unimaginable a couple of months ago: a wholesale migration to a competitive database such as Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2 or even EnterpriseDB.

In a recent survey of 450 enterprise IT shops, Gabriel Consulting Group in Beaverton, Ore., found that a surprisingly large number of IT shops are exploring the possibility of life beyond Oracle.

“The survey as a whole spells backlash in pretty big letters,” said Dan Olds, principal. The survey supporting that finding will be published in the coming weeks.

If it’s any comfort, HP shops that do decide to take the plunge and move away from Oracle may be pleasantly surprised by how easy the database migration can be.

In an effort to improve scalability and PCI compliance, Payment Solution Providers, a Canadian payment processing firm, switched from Oracle 11g running on HP ProLiant servers to DB2 version 9 on an IBM z10 mainframe. The company’s IT staff had zero experience with the mainframe and was apprehensive about the move, to say the least.

“There were some scared faces, some deer in the headlights,” said Danny Gurizzan, the PSP executive vice president who championed the move. But with help from IBM and training, the migration project was completed in about eight months.

“It really wasn’t as bad as everyone thought it was going to be,” Gurizzan said, who credited IBM professional services, strong executive support and the fact that PSP did not have a heavy reliance on Oracle database stored procedures.

Will Oracle and HP kiss and make-up?
Meanwhile, some joint HP-Oracle customers hold out hope that the two companies will come to terms. Earlier this month, Connect, the HP user group, issued a statement urging Oracle to reconsider its decision, but Olds doesn’t think they should hold their breath.

“Certainly in the past, that was the time-honored model of working with Oracle -- paying Oracle to keep your port current,” he said. But judging from conversations with Oracle insiders, that’s not what’s going on here. For one thing, Oracle gave absolutely no notice to partners or customers that it was considering this move.

“This was Pearl Harbor,” Olds said. “You can’t keep this kind of secret.”

Indeed, there’s very little doubt in people’s minds that Oracle’s decision to discontinue Itanium development was a competitive move, pure and simple, said Olds. A large majority (77%) of survey respondents said that Oracle’s action was “designed to kill HP’s HP-UX and NonStop products.” Ninety-four percent of respondents are current Oracle customers.

And enterprise shops believe this is just the beginning. Seventy-nine percent regard Oracle dropping Itanium as the “first step in an Oracle plan to put all competitors at a disadvantage vs. Oracle hardware products.”

And even if Oracle were to rescind its decision, it may be too late for many HP shops.

“The damage is done,” Olds said. “Even if they relented, how long can you really trust that they won’t do it again?”

Much ado about nothing?
HP Integrity systems aren’t what anyone considers a growth segment. Oracle said it acted because the market wasn’t big enough to justify continued investment. It also pointed out that Microsoft will stop Itanium support after Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008. But even though the Unix server market is slumping, it still represented a healthy $11.5 billion business last year, and HP made up about $3 billion worth of it, according to IDC.

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

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