Oracle, which is an HP rival, last year announced it would cease supporting Itanium. However last year HP filed suit maintaining that Oracle was contractually bound to continue supporting Itanium.
According to Business Insider, judge James Kleinberg ruled that all this case was about was whether a contract exists, and what it meant.
This case depended on another one where HP sued its former CEO Mark Hurd after he took a job as co-president of Oracle in September 2010. In that case it claimed he held trade secrets that could hurt HP competitively.
While Oracle and HP quickly negotiated a settlement agreement, the two sides disagreed over whether some of the verbiage drafted in it amounted to a binding contract between Oracle and HP over continued Itanium support.
Kleinberg wrote that for nearly 30 years the two dealt with contracts on an informal basis. Even when the financial consequences were in the billions, they shared resources, worked together, supported mutual customers, and with only a handful of exceptions did so without a written contract.
He said that HP had “every reason to believe” the settlement agreement “was consistent with ‘business as usual'”.
He ruled that Oracle’s statements amounted to a valid contract and the company is required to continue porting its products to HP’s Itanium servers at no cost to HP.
He defined those products as being a list that were offered on HP Itanium platforms as of 20 September, 2010, “including any new releases, versions or updates of those products”.
Oracle is obligated to continue the ports until HP stops selling Itanium-based servers. Or the heat death of the universe, whichever comes first.
But last March, Oracle made an engineering decision to stop future software development on the Itanium chip.
It claims it did so because it became convinced that Itanium was approaching its end of life and the company says it explained its rationale to customers.
Needless to say Oracle plans to appeal the ruling and we suspect this will run on and on.