HP Diamond status with Oracle misleading

Mark Hurd, co-president of Oracle

Mark Hurd, co-president of Oracle

The date when relationships go sour are often hard to pinpoint, as it’s usually not just one thing that sets things off course, but a series of events that culminates in a break. In the case of Hewlett-Packard Co. and Oracle Corp., the date is quite specific: Sept. 5, 2010.

It was on that day Oracle hired dethroned HP CEO Mark Hurd and appointed him “co-president.” Oracle CEO Larry Ellison believed HP was foolish for letting go such a competent leader over expense irregularities, and that Oracle could capitalize on his hardware experience.

From that point on, HP and Oracle had an acrimonious relationship as they skirmished over everything from executive hires to product development. The most significant issue was the long-running lawsuit over Oracle’s discontinuing support for HP’s Integrity servers.

Most of those issues were settled by the middle of last year. And last week, HP was awarded “Diamond” status in the Oracle PartnerNetwork. The top status entitles HP to access vast resources for developing and deploying Oracle solutions.

Many channel observers and industry pundits take this as a sign Oracle and HP have buried the hatchet and resumed normal relations. In reality, HP and Oracle really never stopped working with one another throughout their troubles. Yes, there were breaks in continuity, but for good reason. Disagreements and tensions between cooperating and competing companies are a normal part of business.

While HP and Oracle had their problems between 2010 and 2013, they sold millions of dollars’ worth of each other’s product. The reason: No one vendor, despite what they say, can fulfill the needs of their respective customers. Vendors fill gaps by working with partners, often solution providers, to source product and services that meet the customer’s total need. Vendors work with each other to do the same.

Yes, the relationship between HP and Oracle was strained to the breaking point, but it’s easily explained. When Oracle bought Sun Microsystems in 2009, it gained access to hardware. The foundation of its relationship with companies like HP and Dell Inc. was based around bundling its software on hardware sold direct or through channels. Now that it had to recoup its $5.6 billion investment, Oracle shifted resources away from traditional partners and started marketing its native hardware-software combination.

HP probably didn’t like the Oracle-Sun tie-up, but there wasn’t much it could do about it. It was when Hurd joined Oracle that relations floundered, but didn’t end. While HP and Oracle duked it out in the courtroom and the court of public opinion, mid-tier teams continued working together. Evidence of HP’s work with Oracle is in the Diamond status announcement, in which Oracle lauds HP for having more than 1,000 certified Oracle specialists. An army of that size just doesn’t appear overnight.

Does putting the lawsuits and acrimony behind them make for better relations? Absolutely. But to describe Oracle and HP’s relations has having frozen over the past four years would be an overstatement.

If anything, Oracle awarding HP Diamond status in its partner program is bad news for the rest of the channel. It means any business that had been rerouted through systems integrators, software licensing specialists and resellers now could go to HP, which will sell solutions direct and indirect through its sales channels.

This article originally appeared on Channelnomics.com.