Shades of SCO-IBM Lawsuit as HP Sues Oracle Over Itanium?

Will HP do more harm than good to its own reputation by taking Oracle to court in this fight?

Hewlett-Packard caused quite a ruckus on Wednesday as the company fired a lawsuit at Oracle, essentially alleging that Oracle dropped critical bug update support for Intel's Itanium processors in an effort to harm HP.

HP, of course, has included Itanium processors in much of its high-performance enterprise server line for years, making it sensitive about such matters as the dropping of support by other key vendors. The HP lawsuit argues that Oracle's move is aimed at convincing HP customers to switch over to Oracle's own hardware lines, according to an IDG News Service story.

"The accusation follows Oracle's decision in March to stop developing new versions of its software for Intel's high-end Itanium processor," according to the story. "HP's Integrity servers run on the Itanium chips, and the lawsuit accuses Oracle of violating legal commitments to HP in order to undermine the sale of its products."

In its lawsuit, HP states that "Oracle's sudden departure from its commitment of long-term support for the Itanium platform is a calculated effort to thwart competition from HP and harm its customers."

There's more to this battle than meets the eye, of course. "The lawsuit escalates an ugly brawl between the companies that was triggered by Oracle's purchase of Sun Microsystems early last year, and which intensified when Oracle hired former HP CEO Mark Hurd, one month after he was forced to resign from HP," IDGNS reported.

Relationship problems are never simple, are they?

Oracle, of course, issued a statement on Wednesday refuting the allegations and tossing back some of its own venom:

"Today HP filed a lawsuit claiming that Oracle had breached an agreement to support the Itanium microprocessor," the Oracle statement said. "It just takes a few minutes to read the early drafts of the agreement to prove that HP's claim is not true. What is true is that HP explicitly asked Oracle to guarantee continued support for Itanium; but Oracle refused, and HP's Itanium support guarantee wording was deleted from the final signed agreement."

All of that jostling, according to Oracle, occurred because HP quietly knew that Intel was planning to discontinue the Itanium line and was seeking a long-term commitment to support Itanium because of HP's investments in the technology. "At that time Oracle did not know that there was a plan already in place to end Itanium's life. Oracle did not learn about that plan until six months later, in March 2011. We believe that HP specifically asked Oracle to guarantee long-term support for Itanium in the September of 2010 agreement because HP already knew all about Intel’s plans to discontinue Itanium, and HP was concerned about what would happen when Oracle found out about that plan."

Intel has not apparently laid out its plans for Itanium, but that's expected to change now, according to the Oracle statement. "Intel's end-of-life Itanium will be revealed in court now that HP has filed this utterly malicious and meritless lawsuit against Oracle."

This latest public battle of IT titans has me reminiscing about a similar case I covered some years back.

You'll probably remember it – when the former SCO sued IBM in March of 2003 for $1 billion, alleging that IBM illegally contributed key parts of SCO's UNIX code to the then-fledgling Linux project.

Those legal claims were later amended to seek more than $5 billion and began a legal fight that stretched until late last year, when SCO's case effectively dissolved following a series of countersuits, appeals and legal procedures.

SCO was left bankrupt and essentially finished as a viable business after it so publicly dragged its competitor to court.

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