Oracle Corp. is trying to lure several hundred new VARs in Canada and the U.S. to sell its entry-level products by offering a low-cost ticket to its partner program.

“We want to go after the mid-market space,” Mark Edwards, Oracle Canada’s channel manager for technology, said of the new

OPN Access program.

Under it, resellers who want to sell the Standard Edition One versions of the 10g database and the upcoming Application Server 10g can join Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) for $362 a year. Regular OPN members, who have the right to sell all Oracle products, pay $2,735 a year.

Access members receive streamlined OPN enrolment, plus full sales resources and benefits for the Standard Edition One family. These include the use of Oracle logos, sales guides, online training and prospecting. OPN Access members are also invited to Oracle marketing events, where they can meet potential customers.

Oracle Database 10g Standard Edition One, which has been out about a year on Windows, Linux and Unix, is similar to the Standard Editions of the database, although it is limited to one server with no more than two processors. It’s also priced lower than the standard versions, is available at standard reseller discounts from distributors.

Application Server 10g SE One, which will be released in a few months, is also limited to a two-processor server.

According to Oracle Canada, the SE One database can be bought two ways: $6,062 per processor, or $180 per named user.

It’s an ideal entry-level product, said Deke Johnson, chief executive officer of Aware Technologies, a San Carlos, Calif., software reseller with offices in Toronto, New York and New Orleans.

Rather than cripple the database’s features, Oracle has cut the price, he said. “It challenges us,” he acknowledged. “It used to (cost) US$15,000. Now it’s US$5,000,” which, he said, means less profit for the reseller.

On the other hand, he said, “it opens a significant market for smaller companies or projects.”

“I don’t look at this (SE One) as a profitable business, (but) as one that helps a customer grow. It will drive transactions, which will drive relationships, which, hopefully, will grow into partnerships.”

The move to recruit more partners comes as Microsoft readies to release SQL Server 2005. Edwards admits that the program is in part targeted at increasing Oracle’s play in the SMB market, where SQL Sever is popular.

IBM has a similar strategy for attracting SMB customers by offering an Express version of its DB2 database.

Oracle is perceived and priced as an enterprise database, something alluded to by Edwards.

“We’re trying to drive downmarket to smaller and mid-sized customers,” he said. “Our enterprise products are targeted to larger customers, so releasing Standard Edition One allows us to go after the customer who doesn’t necessarily need all that functionality (and) at an affordable price point.”

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