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Hewlett-Packard recently filed suit against Oracle over the software giant s decision to end support for Intel’s Itanium platform, which HP officials characterized as a cynical move by Oracle to force customers to adopt its struggling SPARC hardware.

The lawsuit was only the latest step in the ongoing drama about the dissolving relationship between the two one-time partners. The friction started with Oracle s $7.4 billion acquisition last year of Sun Microsystems, and followed with some skipping around of executives former HP CEO Mark Hurd going to Oracle, former Oracle executive Ray Lane jumping onto HP s board of directors, and Leo Apotheker, an Oracle nemesis from his time as CEO of SAP, taking over for Hurd at the top of HP.

Oracle’s Itanium decision, announced in March, and HP’s subsequent reaction only ramped up the animosity.

So, in this back-and-forth between the two tech titans, who is the ultimate winner? According to two analysts, that would be IBM, which already has seen success in convincing HP and Oracle Unix customers to move to its own Power systems, thanks to its aggressive migration programs. The sense of instability around both HP and Oracle due to their ugly breakup will only serve to drive away enterprise customers who are uncomfortable with uncertainty, the analysts said.

“Rather than providing what Oracle likely hoped would be a competitive edge for its Sun hardware solutions, the company s battle with HP has instead given IBM an unprecedented opportunity to move on HP/Oracle accounts with migration programs designed to remove forever the discomfort and dangers of warring vendors putting mission-critical systems at risk,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst with The Enderle Group, said in a June 22 report.

Roger Kay, principle analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, agreed. “This beef has been a windfall for IBM, which, amid the uncertainty surrounding Itanium s future, is picking off HP and Oracle (former Sun) customers right and left,” Kay wrote in a June 22 column on “IBM has institutionalized this process, creating what it calls the STG Power Migration Factory to bring its competitors customers over to Power-based systems. IBM has been extending its lead in UNIX servers steadily in the past several years, taking out hundreds of its competitors systems per year. Even if Oracle caves and restarts Itanium support, customers will remain uncomfortable about the depth of that support. If the suit goes to trial, even if HP wins, support will come too late. Enterprise customers don”t like uncertainty.”

To read the original eWeek article, click here: IBM the Winner in the HP-Oracle Fight: Analysts