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HPE wins $3bn in damages from Oracle

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has won $3bn in damages after a five-year legal battle with Oracle over its decision to stop supporting its database on Itanium-based servers

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Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has won $3bn in damages from Oracle for breaching a contract to end support for the Oracle database on Itanium-based servers.

HPE benefits from the court decision as it retained the server division of HP after the company split in 2015 into two separate companies.

HP sued Oracle in 2011 after it discontinued support for its database software on servers based on the Itanium processor and running HP’s HP-UX operating system.

At the time, several of HP’s servers used Itanium processors that HP had co-developed with Intel in the 1990s. Intel took over sole Itanium development from 2004.

HPE still supports Itanium systems, but has switched to Intel Xeon processors for all new servers. Itanium servers are still available from other specialist suppliers, according to Ars Technica.

In 2012, a California court ordered Oracle to resume support for the Intel Itanium chips and ruled that Oracle owed HP damages.

Oracle resumed support in late 2012, but the damages were undecided until HPE went to court to settle the matter in May 2016.

HPE argued that discontinuing support for Itanium had hurt the commercial viability of its Itanium servers and accused Oracle of taking its decision to drive sales of Oracle’s own Sun hardware.

The court ruled in favour of HPE and awarded the company $3bn compensation for lost sales and damages.

HPE’s lawyer John Schultz said the ruling “affirms what HP has always known and the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrated – Oracle’s decision to stop future software development on the Itanium server platform in March of 2011 was a clear breach of contract that caused serious damage to HP and our customers”.

Oracle appeal

Oracle plans to appeal against the original breach of contract decision and the subsequent damages award on the grounds that the Itanium processor was clearly near the end of its life by 2011.

The company also maintains that its contract with HP never obligated it to support HP’s Itanium systems indefinitely.

The ruling against Oracle comes less than a month after a San Francisco court ruled that Google’s use of Java in its Android mobile operating system did not infringe Oracle’s copyright.

Google said the verdict that Android makes fair use of Java APIs represents a win for the Android ecosystem, for the Java programming community, and for software developers.

Oracle has said it plans to appeal against that ruling too.

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The computing industry actors are over-dependent one on the other one, in particular when working with proprietary technology.

In this case, it is valid to go out of business but not to decide to stop supporting some platform.  This shows that the "risks" on the big enterprises are extremely linked and that the main information platform it is really very fragile.
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