HP and Oracle Clash Puts Businesses at Risk

An Oracle announcement in March about dropping support for a particular Intel chip (Itanium) triggered a clash among two IT giants. While it may make for fun viewing from the sidelines, Hewlett-Packard's (HP) thousands of customers using the Oracle database have reasons to be concerned.

Many thousands of HP customers run Oracle software on Itanium-based servers. These customers rightfully are nervous, fearing the loss of support from Oracle for their critical database servers. As wiredFINANCE wrote previously, moving to a different server is not trivial. HP has tried to calm nerves with a recent FAQ here.

No matter how either of the vendors tries to soothe nerves, many companies will opt for technology migration. Eager to exploit a competitive opportunity, IBM is jumping in with migration deals. In truth, companies have options.

Changes that have been occurring in the IT industry over a number of years have conspired to limit those options. For example, the number of vendors offering enterprise class proprietary UNIX has dwindled down to Oracle with Solaris, HP with HP-UX, and IBM with AIX.

Much of the UNIX action has shifted to Linux, which is an open source version of UNIX. Running on the x86 (PC) chip architecture, it is supported by nearly all the leading hardware and software providers. So a move off proprietary UNIX to Linux servers running Oracle is quite possible and will be one of the paths most taken. Then it becomes a question of which server vendor.

The server choices are somewhat better than with proprietary UNIX, according to IDC's latest server market survey. HP, IBM, and Dell held the top three market positions, followed by Oracle/Sun and Fujitsu. There are others but if a company wants to get clear of the Oracle-HP turbulence, the only practical choices are Dell and IBM and possibly Fujitsu, which isn't exactly a household word in IT.

Then there is the problem of the Oracle database itself. If you are running Oracle on the Itanium platform you eventually will need to switch to another platform or switch databases. Switching either is a risky undertaking.

You don't have many alternatives if you need an enterprise-class database. Basically, you have IBM's DB2 or EnterpriseDB, an open source database that is making a big pitch to those caught in the HP-Oracle dogfight. Check out EnterpriseDB here.

IBM is throwing in everything it has to lure HP-Oracle customers. It has a discount program called BreakFree and a set of professional services to help you make the switch called Migration Factory and more. All together, IBM promises savings of up to 50% over the first three years.

A new product IBM introduced on Tuesday might be just right. It announced an entry-level mainframe server, the z114, which starts at $75,000. It can consolidate workloads from 40 x86-based servers running Oracle software on just three (of 10) z114 processors running Linux for a total cost of hardware, software and support that is 80% less than the 40 x86-based servers.

Most CFOs hate it when an arcane IT ruckus like HP-Itanium-Oracle forces them to focus on technology. But in this case there is too much risk and money involved to ignore.

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