Oracle has been ordered to pay $3bn in compensation to Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) over its 2011 decision to discontinue software support for Itanium-based servers, just a year after acquiring HPE rival Sun Microsystems.
The lawsuit was filed in 2011 after Oracle announced that it would stop supporting software for Itanium-based servers, 10 years after signing a deal with Hewlett-Packard to develop software for HP's Itanium servers.
The deal, earlier cases had concluded, obliged Oracle to produce and support software for Itanium-based systems until at least 2022.
Oracle claimed that the Itanium market was as good as dead, and that HP knew it, but that Oracle had nevertheless continued supporting the software while the two companies' briefs argued about it in court (to be accurate, Oracle was ordered to do so by the courts).
"Five years ago, Oracle made a software development announcement which accurately reflected the future of the Itanium microprocessor," said Oracle general counsel Dorian Daley in a statement following the award.
"Two trials have now demonstrated clearly that the Itanium chip was nearing end of life, and that HP knew it and was actively hiding that fact from its customers.
"Oracle never believed it had a contract to continue to port our software to Itanium indefinitely, and we do not believe so today. Nevertheless, Oracle has provided all its latest software for the Itanium systems since the original ruling, while HP and Intel stopped developing systems years ago."
However, Daley vowed to continue fighting the case. "It is very clear that any contractual obligations were reciprocal and HP breached its own obligations. Now that both trials have concluded, we intend to appeal today's ruling and the prior ruling from Judge Kleinberg," he said.
Itanium was developed in the early 2000s as high-end server makers sought what they regarded as more powerful and viable alternatives to the niche microprocessor architectures they used at the time, typically Alpha, PowerPC and MIPS.
HP's old high-end Unix servers ran on the firm's proprietary PA-RISC microprocessors, which had become expensive to support and develop.
Itanium was intended to provide a standardised chip architecture for high-end servers to which all hardware makers could shift, lowering costs on the one hand, but extending Intel's dominance in high-end servers on the other.
However, development of Itanium took longer than expected, while the development of Intel's standard microprocessor architecture proved increasingly capable of taking on high-end workloads, rendering Itanium increasingly redundant.
Sun Microsystems, meanwhile, had stuck with its own Sparc architecture, but was acquired in 2010 by Oracle. The software maker therefore had a direct interest in discontinuing support for Itanium, potentially undermining one of its main rivals to the benefit of its own server products. µ
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