Intel Dragged Into Oracle/HP Spat; Oracle's Motivations Increasingly Shady

The battle between HP and Oracle over the future of the Itanium processor has gotten large enough to pull Intel into the courtroom, but the CPU manufacturer successfully appealed to a judge to allow it to keep certain documents confidential rather than turning them over to Oracle.

For those of you just tuning in, the entire spat kicked off when Oracle announced it was cancelling plans to support Intel's Itanium in future versions of its database software. Accusations between the two companies piled on thick and fast, with Oracle alleging that Intel's Itanium roadmap and support is the result of a secret contract with HP designed so that "HP can maintain the appearance that a dead microprocessor is still alive."

The fight went before a judge in December, where Oracle asked for all Itanium-related product roadmaps, strategy documents, and emails dating back to January 1, 2005. The problem Intel had with that was two-fold. First, Oracle's acquisition of Sun means that the company is now a direct competitor of Intel's in the high-end server business, and second, Oracle's representation in the case, Dorian Daley, is also the company's General Counsel.

Intel successfully argued that Daley “will be unable to compartmentalize and ignore Intel confidential information when she advises Oracle’s management and Board as they decide how to compete with Intel.” The judge agreed; Oracle will have to make its case without access to the documents in question.

This Isn't Actually About Itanium

What the Wired story makes clear is that this has always been a personal fight. Mark Hurd, HP's disgraced CEO, turns out to be a friend of Larry Ellison, who hired him after his departure from that company. Oracle's decision to dump Itanium came just months later. Combined with Oracle's own hardware business, it's not hard to see a personal element to the company's anti-Itanium crusade.

Reports of the chip's death, meanwhile, have been greatly exaggerated. Itanium may have never achieved what Intel hoped it would as far as driving RISC architectures completely out of the market, but Intel's Itanium sales are larger than AMD's entire 2010 x86 server share. It may only be a fraction of Intel's x86 business, but the CPU is profitable. So long as that holds true, Intel will likely keep developing for it.
Tags:  HP, Itanium, Oracle, Ellison