Oracle customers using Itanium chips rethink IT upgrades

Oracle's decision to stop software development for Itanium could cost customers millions in IT upgrades

By , IDG News Service |  Software, Intel, itanium

Oracle customers this week expressed concern about the effort and cost of upgrading IT infrastructures after the software maker said it would stop development for Intel's Itanium chip architecture.

In a terse statement issued on Wednesday, Oracle said it would discontinue software development for Itanium, reasoning that Intel's strategic focus was on the x86 architecture, and that Itanium was nearing the end of its life.

The decision has forced Oracle customers using Itanium servers to rethink long-term IT upgrade plans, as Oracle's decision limits future hardware and software options.

Some customers are considering buying new hardware or porting code around a new chip architecture, which could cost millions of dollars. However, Oracle's continuing support of existing software on Itanium servers could protect investments and mitigate short-term issues.

Intel's Itanium chips are primarily available on Hewlett-Packard's Integrity servers, which are designed to be mission-critical systems, built for high uptime. In reaction to Oracle's decision, Intel this week reiterated its commitment to Itanium, while HP said that Oracle's "anti-customer actions" were designed to force customers into buying Sun servers.

Oracle has provided an end-of-life list for software on Itanium servers. The last version of the Oracle database to support Itanium will be 11gR2. The upcoming version 12g will not work on Itanium.

A distribution company runs the Oracle database on Integrity servers with HP's proprietary HP-UX OS. But after Oracle's decision, the future of deploying more Integrity servers is "looking bleak," said Mel Burslan, a senior systems engineer.

The company is slowly moving away from HP-UX to Linux, but if it also decided to move away from Integrity servers, it could cost millions, Burslan said. The company's hardware infrastructure also includes servers based on HP's now-defunct PA-RISC chips, primarily to run legacy applications.

"Knowing the budget of my department ... it would be in (the) several millions of dollars level just for the hardware costs and then a hefty sum for the consulting and additional manpower requirements," Burslan said.

For Veolia Environment Service, North America, Oracle's announcement could end up accelerating migration efforts. The company was already evaluating options to move from Itanium to a new chip architecture, said Todd Sheetz, manager of database administration and enterprise architecture. Veolia runs Oracle's PeopleSoft ERP system on Integrity servers with HP-UX, and database software on x86 servers running Linux.

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