Oracle drops support for Intel's much-maligned Itanium chip

Oracle further muddied the future of Intel's Itanium platform, saying late Tuesday that it had decided to discontinue all development for the server chip. It is only the latest to do so, behind Microsoft last year, and Red Hat in 2009.

"Intel management made it clear that their strategic focus is on their x86 microprocessor and that Itanium was nearing the end of its life," the company said in a statement. Intel disagreed with Oracle's claim however, saying it remained "committed" to the platform.

"Intel's work on Intel Itanium processors and platforms continues unabated with multiple generations of chips currently in development and on schedule," the chipmaker's president and CEO Paul Otellini said in a statement.

Intel's relationship with Itanium has been a rocky one since its 2001 debut. Its architecture was made incompatible with the x86 line of processors from the start, meaning applications had to be written specifically for it. It also typically performed at much slower speeds to its competitors.

The chip never seemed to have good sales, and was upstaged by AMD's own 64-bit processors which were x86-compatible. This forced Intel to produce 64-bit server chips that were x86-compatible as well, effectively marooning Itanium and further damaging the platform.

Oracle's comments also seemed to upset HP, which is the largest producer of servers based on Itanium. The chip was the result of a collaboration between HP and Intel during the 1990s, although Intel now is responsible for its development.

With its acquisition of Sun, Oracle also became a competitor to Itanium with its plans to continue development of the SPARC chip. HP seemingly believes this is somewhat anti-competitive -- akin to Sun attempting to push customers to its own product by ending support of a competitor's.

"We are shocked that Oracle would put enterprises and governments at risk while costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity in a shameless gambit to limit fair competition," HP executive vice president Dave Donatelli told Businesweek.

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