There are plenty of slides to look at in the many PowerPoint presentations going on at OracleWorld 2003 this week, but the channel probably noticed one above all others.
It came during a talk with Michael Dell, the first of a series of invited “”superstar”” keynotes Oracle has arranged over
the four-day event. Dell was discussing his firm’s recent partnership with Oracle, whereby Oracle’s Real Application Clusters are deployed on Dell PowerEdge servers. In a slide that followed, one column showed how the Oracle sales are structured today – with a variety of companies supplying hardware, software, and services. The right-hand column had the same categories, except that all the suppliers were replaced with a Dell logo.
If this was supposed to strike fear into the channel’s heart, it shouldn’t. Oracle’s introduction of grid computing capabilities in its database and Application Server presents a tremendous opportunities for resellers both to make additional revenue and validate the strength of indirect partnerships.
Oracle says its 10g products will potentially make life easier in the enterprise by having several cheap servers share the computing demands of several applications. Selling this to IT managers means understanding where the pain points are. A manufacturing firm’s VAR, for example, is probably the first to hear about the processing crunch that comes at the end of every quarter when all kinds of financial information is keyed into mission-critical systems. Grid computing software is designed to let firms distribute that workload across servers that are otherwise idle for large periods of time. It takes a genuine insight into how individual users depend on their infrastructure to make this a reality, and good resellers already own the customer relationship.
The sale is not limited to software – the blade servers used in grid computing are cheap, but in this case they could be sold in volume – but there is also a great deal of potential margin in the manageability applications users will need as they move to grids.
Several experts here at the show have told me grid computing first requires an enterprise company to undergo a consolidation project. I recently interviewed a Canadian customs brokerage, which did this, and has already seen major cost savings and better use of its resources. The IT manager told me he only did it because he was approached by IBM, asking how they could help deal with whatever problems the customer was having. He said it was the first time in 15 years a service provider had done so.
There is no reason the channel can’t be as proactive as Big Blue. Whether they choose 10g or not, resellers would be wise to approach customers about excess server capacity and redundancy early, potentially drafting a longer-term IT strategy together. This is much more viable for VARs than it is for Dell, which is necessarily limited by its call centre and its still-young enterprise services unit.
Grid computing is all about being proactive and addressing problems before they start. Resellers don’t have to adopt the technology, but the thinking behind it is a great way to define their business model.
Shane Schick is the online editor of Computer Dealer News and the editor of ITBusiness.ca.