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One shop describes its move off Oracle on Itanium

Given Oracle’s recent announcement that it would stop software development on Itanium, one environmental services company’s decision to move to x86 Linux is timely.

It really came down to the bottom line for Todd Sheetz. His company could either stay with Oracle on Itanium running HP-UX, or it could upgrade to Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) on commodity x86 servers running Linux.

Sheetz, the manager of database administration and enterprise architecture for Veolia Environmental Services in Milwaukee, said the decision was pretty easy.

“It was a cost-based thing,” he said. “We put in clustering and got high availability and scalability (with RAC) at the same cost it would have been to replace with newer Itanium.”

Given Oracle’s recent announcement that it would stop software development for Oracle on Itanium, Veolia’s migration decision is timely. The company still has some Itanium hardware running PeopleSoft financial applications and Oracle Enterprise Manager. Now they’re looking to move those apps off Itanium as well.

The news this week regarding Itanium was like a pingpong match. First Oracle said it would cease software development on Itanium. It also threw in the claim that Itanium was essentially dead, with a press release that stated, “Intel management made it clear that their strategic focus is on their x86 microprocessor and that Itanium was nearing the end of its life.”

Hewlett-Packard Co. -- the dominant manufacturer of Itanium-based servers -- and Intel itself shot back, saying they plan to develop Itanium and Itanium-based servers for the next 10 years and beyond. HP said Oracle was being “anti-customer,” surmising that it was because Oracle had to “move to shore up their failing Sun server business,” Dave Donatelli, vice president of servers at HP, said in a press release.

In a release of its own, Intel said it was committed to Itanium and that its work “continues unabated with multiple generations of chips currently in development and on schedule.”

Yet for Sheetz, whether Intel continues to develop Itanium isn’t the point. The point is whether Oracle supports software development on that platform. According to Sheetz, Oracle has supported Itanium weakly in the past, and now it’s clear that it is stopping altogether.

In addition to working at Veolia, Sheetz is also on the board of directors of the Independent Oracle Users Group. Because of that, he said he is more in tune to Oracle’s development cycle. And it was clear that development of Oracle on Itanium was on the second tier, as he put it. He gave an example to illustrate.

“We have the Enterprise Manager product,” he explained. “We were trying to install management packs for Grid Control, and we had to wait six months for a bug fix for it.”

Itanium sales revenues, along with the entire Unix server market, has been slowly and steadily dropping for years now. IBM, with its Power processor, has become the dominant Unix platform, with Itanium- and Sparc-based servers losing market share just about every quarter. When asked why Veolia didn’t migrate to another Unix platform such as Sparc, Sheetz pointed back to the bottom line.

“It came down to more of a cost thing more than anything,” he said. “Linux, for what you get with it, the cost is so low.”

There have been some adjustments by Veolia employees to accommodate the migration. The company’s main system administrator was an expert in HP-UX. He was forced to pick up Linux because Veolia had some secondary applications that needed Linux anyway. So he made that transition.

And now Veolia is looking ahead to its PeopleSoft financial software. Sheetz said the company is currently at PeopleSoft 9.0 for the application layer, and the next planned jump is to version 9.

Oracle isn’t planning on supporting PeopleSoft 9.2 applications, due out next year, on Itanium.

“We had been talking about replacing that hardware anyway, probably next year,” Sheetz said. “We’ll probably just speed up that decision. This kind of forces the hand a little bit.”

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