By Noel Randewich
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Intel and Hewlett-Packard Co unveiled new server technology based on the high-end niche Itanium processors at the center of a recent dispute between Hewlett-Packard and Oracle Corp.
The future of servers built with Itanium chips was thrown into doubt last year due to a bitter legal battle between long-time partners HP and Oracle and it remains unclear to some experts even after a California state court judge ruled in favor of HP.
Intel and HP held a news conference on Thursday announcing the availability of the newest version of Itanium and introducing new HP servers using the chips.
HP will keep offering its customers choices between servers based on heavy-duty Itanium chips and Intel's more widely used "x86" chips, said Ric Lewis, vice president and interim general manager of HP's Business Critical Systems.
Rory McInerney, vice president of Intel's architecture group said that future Itanium chips would be built using some of the key features found in the company's more widely used Xeon server processors. He did not say when future chips would be released.
Once envisioned as a high-end processor that could become pervasive across the server industry, Itanium suffered a series of setbacks and was eventually overtaken by 64-bit chips based on Intel's x86 architecture, which is now widely used in the PC industry. Software created for x86 servers is not compatible with Itanium servers, which are mostly sold by HP.
In August, a California state court judge ruled in favor of HP and against Oracle over the latter's decision to end support for servers HP makes using Itanium chips.
Oracle has since said it would support Itanium servers.
The dispute began after Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, which put Oracle into the server hardware business in competition against its partner, HP.
Oracle had said it would no longer make new versions of its database software compatible with Itanium servers because the chip family was nearing the end of its life.
Asked about the long-term viability of Itanium chips in an industry where x86 is dominant, Intel's McInerney said, "I think that whole thing was litigated and I think the message back is that Oracle is supporting Itanium."
Codenamed Paulson, the new Itanium 9500 has up to 2.4 times the performance of the previous generation, has twice as many cores and consumes less power, McInerney said.
HP's Itanium-based servers are mostly used by large corporations with rigorous computing needs.
(Reporting By Noel Randewich; Editing by Bernard Orr)