A Toronto-based system integrator is cautiously optimistic about Oracle Corp.’s renewed support for the independent software vendor community.

“Quite frankly in the past (Oracle) was not the most friendly towards partners,” said Gary Chan, managing partner at Procase Consulting Inc.,

after attending Oracle’s first PartnerNetwork ISV Forum last week. “I think it’s important to be frank in these sessions. They’re not selling to the already converted.”

But Chan is encouraged by new talk from Oracle execs and sales reps expressing the need to work with partners.

“It will be interesting to see how it dissipates to the regional offices and various lines of businesses,” he said.

Procase Consulting, which focuses on database, e-business and application servers, has been an Oracle partner for five years.

At the San Francisco conference, CEO Larry Ellison told partners about their role in growing the firm’s market opportunities. “The only way for Oracle to grow is for our ISV community to grow and be successful,” said Ellison. “We are committed to making that happen as a company.”

While Oracle traditionally has not been a strong supporter of the channel, Karen Foley, the company’s senior director of ISV programs, said that’s changed in the past couple of years.

“Since Charles Phillips (president) has come on we’ve renewed our focus and our commitment to the partner base,” she said. “This (event) was a way of getting the message out to partners that they are a very significant part of our ecosystem today.”

Out of the 1,000 worldwide ISV partners attending the event, which was sponsored by Hewlett-Packard Co. and Intel Corp., about half were existing and half prospective partners.

The forum was designed to boost awareness among non-partners about Oracle’s technology and its go-to-market strategy, and to re-engage with its existing partners.

“The main message of the forum was about growing business jointly by working with Oracle around key markets that are coming out as well as vertical and horizontal solution areas,” said Foley.

Oracle demonstrated new direction to partners with the launch of a new pricing option for Oracle Standard Edition One database, now US $149 per user (minimum five users) with Named User Plus licensing or US $4,995 per processor.

“For the first time (Standard Edition One) is cheaper than Microsoft’s SQL Server at the low end,” she said. “We’ve re-engineered and re-packaged the product for ISVs wanting to take on the (mid-market) space and wanting to do it with Oracle.”

Chan said the change in pricing structures will make it much easier for partners to sell Oracle products without having to worry about the complexities of licensing agreements.

“They’re really making an effort to make it much easier for us. That really shows (Oracle’s) really trying to push it to the mid-market and the entry level organizations, which is where a lot of the ISVs can come in and help,” said Chan.

The standard edition also has the same code base as the enterprise edition, which allows ISVs to build one application and scale it as their customers’ demands change.

Oracle Database 10g for grid computing, which launched in January, was re-architected specifically with ISVs in mind, said Foley. New features include a smaller footprint, single-click install and self-managing and self-tuning features — all of which, added Foley, are suited for ISVs selling into the mid-market.

Approximately 40 per cent of Oracle’s license revenue comes through partners with the remainder through direct sales. Foley, however, added that about 70 per cent of the firm’s business is influenced by the partner community.

There are 13,500 partners in Oracle’s PartnerNetwork (OPN) worldwide, 6,200 of which are ISVs. Other categories include system integrators, hardware and infrastructure providers, value-added resellers, hosting service providers, management consultancies, professional associations, content providers and education providers. There are three membership levels: partner, certified partner and certified advantage partner.

The forum also gave ISVs the chance to network with other Oracle partners including system integrators, value added resellers and value added distributors. Foley said this was one of the reasons why Oracle started having these events. Oracle also has an online catalogue where ISV partners list their applications for inside sales, customers and partners to view.

Chan, who attended networking sessions with other partners, said the partners need to work together.

“Gone are the days when each of us will be able to do everything ourselves. (The partners) are all quite excited by this new endeavor.”

Other top Oracle executives attending the conference were Phillips, vice-president of server technologies Chuck Rozwat, and executive vice-president of applications development Ron Wohl, whom also made presentations. Partners also had the opportunity to learn about the latest Oracle strategies and sales execution plans for its full product line, hear about industry-specific opportunities for ISV solutions and meet Oracle executives in one-on-one sessions.

Upcoming ISV forums will be held in England, Brazil, India and China. Foley said Oracle hopes to make PartnerNetwork ISV Forum an annual event.

Chan said the conference is definitely a good idea, but he’ll be looking for Oracle to follow through on its promises.

“Between now and next year, it will be important for Oracle to put this into action. They get us all excited and now we’re looking to translating that into actual returns.

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