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Originally Published By Kevin McLaughlin on March 14, 2014

Oracle said Friday it has promoted Hewlett-Packard to top-level status in its Oracle PartnerNetwork, and partners said the unexpected move could signal a thaw in the recently frosty relationship between the vendors.

HP now has Diamond-level status, the highest ranking in Oracle’s partner program. HP was already an Oracle Platinum level partner, having achieved that certification late last year, Robert Hildenbrand, vice president of worldwide Oracle application services at HP, said in an interview.

Hildenbrand called the promotion “a positive move” for the 30-year HP-Oracle partnership. “Not only is the relationship continuing to improve, it also means both companies are working together to meet the needs of our customers,” he told CRN.

Oracle announced the HP promotion in a press release but declined to make a representative available for comment.

Diamond status in Oracle’s partner program is based on a standard set of Oracle-defined criteria which include product specialization, joint customer references and joint services sales efforts. HP has a “deep pool of expertise” in Oracle hardware and software that comes from having more than 1,000 Oracle specialists in-house, according to Hildenbrand.

Rich Baldwin, CIO and chief strategy officer at Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based HP partner, told CRN he’s not sure what’s behind the apparent turnaround in the HP-Oracle relationship.

“To say I’m shocked, surprised, and amazed is an understatement,” Baldwin said. “I’m speechless.”

After decades of working closely together, HP and Oracle began feuding in early 2011. HP sued Oracle for breach of contract after Oracle decided to stop developing software for Itanium servers, and prevailed in that case the following year. Oracle’s 2010 hiring of former HP CEO Mark Hurd, and several key channel executives, has added to the tension between the vendors.

But in addition to HP’s elevated partner status, there have been other signs that the HP-Oracle relationship is improving. Earlier this week, Oracle named HP its Middleware Partner of the Year award for the U.K. and Ireland, and last year, it gave HP the same award for its Belgium region, Hildebrand said.

Baldwin called the improved relationship between Oracle and HP a positive development. “You can’t ignore HP, with its 1,000 Oracle consultants,” he said. “If you have a big government project requiring 200 Oracle consultants for two years, who else can do it?”

[highlight type=”one”] Bob Venero, CEO of Future Tech, a Holbrook, N.Y.-based HP partner, isn’t surprised to see the longtime partners burying the hatchet. “All things in business are cyclical,” he told CRN. “Oracle isn’t the easiest company to partner with, and HP is much easier to work with, so I think this is going to help us.”[/highlight]

With additional reporting from Joseph F. Kovar