HPE has its day in court, only years too late

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is having its day in Court, looking for $3 bn in damages from its long-term business partner, Oracle.

This complaint is about some pretty old technology. Years ago, HP, as it was then called, worked with Intel to develop a new range of native 64-bit microprocessors, the Itanium chip. Intel’s goal, in pursuit of Moore’s Law, was all about giving people more computational power.

HP was equally driven. It needed an upgrade path from its proprietary HP-UX Unix hardware, powered by PA-Risc microprocessors.

So the pair co-developed a 64-bit microprocessor architecture and lined up the leading enterprise software providers to port their systems to the new HP-UX Itanium hardware – the Integrity and Superdome server families.

All they needed was a killer application, and the one to go for was the market leading relational database management system, namely Oracle.

Everyone’s a winner, right?

Intel and HP could offer the leading database server to their customers, many of whom already run Oracle on older HP-UX/PA-Risc systems.

But rather like the actions of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, one should never second guess Oracle’s strategy and the motivations of its CEO, Larry Ellison.

In 2009, Oracle spent $7.4bn buying Sun Microsystems, maker of Sun Sparc-based Unix workstations and servers, Solaris operating system and the inventor of Java. At the time Ellison said: “Oracle will be the only company that can engineer an integrated system.” True to his words, the company has released a range of Sparc-based appliances running Oracle software.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Intel shifted it focus on pushing the x86 microprocessor rather than Itanium.

The latest Gartner server shipments show that far more x86 servers are sold globally that any other architecture. The x86 market was worth $11 bn in Q1 2016, while the Itanium and Risc market was worth less than $1 bn.

The spat between HPE and Oracle concerns breach of contract. HPE also alleges Oracle actively damaged Itanium’s reputation and has not fully supported its software on Itanium servers.

As the server shipment figures show, the world has moved on. Most businesses are opting for x86-based server workloads. And, as Computer Weekly has previously reported, many people are seriously looking at alternative database architectures like NoSQL.