Hurd Appointment Will Ignite Oracle Channel Fire: VARs3:06 PM EST Tue. Sep. 07, 2010
That was the first word to come to mind for Chris Pyle, president and CEO of Champion Solutions Group, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based solution provider and Oracle partner, when word of Oracle's hiring of ousted HP CEO Mark Hurd as its new co-president rippled through the IT world.
But after some digestion, the move by Larry Ellison and Co. to sign on Hurd started to make perfect sense, Pyle said. Hurd left his post as HP's top executive last month amid a sexual harassment investigation that was ultimately unfounded. This week Oracle revealed that it hired Hurd, who is replacing outgoing Oracle President Charles Phillips.
With Hurd on board, solution providers expect Oracle to undergo the once unfathomable metamorphosis from fickle channel antagonist to a channel force to be reckoned with that will use its newly hired channel muscle to put the heat on competitors.
"In his time with HP they really wanted the channel to succeed and [Hurd] was a channel advocate," Pyle said, adding that Oracle could use a channel injection, especially now that Sun's hardware offerings have been added to the mix and partners are finding their feet with the major merger.
Bob Venero, CEO, of Future Tech, a Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider, said that along with the channel boost, Hurd brings a competitive spirit that will help Oracle tackle some of its largest foes. Future Tech sits in a unique seat with Hurd's hiring, as it is both an HP and Oracle partner.
"Oracle's channel strategy up until now has been convoluted," said Venero. "Mark is absolutely going to bring vision and direction to that channel strategy. The channel is in Mark's DNA. I see Oracle moving from a convoluted channel to a highly-focused channel machine that leverages the channel to grow in both the channel and in customer penetration."
And for Future Tech, having the channel in Hurd's crosshairs will mean more Oracle business for Future Tech, Venero said.
"We're a midsize Oracle VAR, soon to be a major Oracle VAR. When we made our announcement this morning to the entire Future Tech about Mark Hurd going to Oracle, part of our message to our entire corporation is, Future Tech will become a stronger partner of Oracle," Venero said.
John Convery, executive vice president of vendor relations and marketing for Denali Advanced Integration, Redmond, Wash., agreed.
"My first reaction was, I'm pleased to see a leader of his caliber go to Oracle," he said. "I'm happy for him personally and for him professionally. And I'd not be surprised when Denali and others get the call from him to see what he needs from the channel."
"From the Oracle side, it has to be an exciting time for the channel," Convery continued. "Mark Hurd is a believer in the channel. It's in his DNA. Oracle has had issues with the channel, not unlike HP had in the past."
Next: Hurd's Hands-On Channel Approach
Partners foresee Oracle reversing its course as a faint-hearted channel player with only 43 percent of its $27 billion in annual sales coming from the channel to becoming a powerhouse that drives the majority of its sales through the channel.
Convery said Hurd is known to engage channel partners and takes a hands-on approach to help them win business.
"He not only visits partners, he has a process in place for follow-ups and he executes on it," Convery said, adding that Hurd has twice visited Denali for roundtable discussions with customers. "After the meetings, he called the customers and asked them about us on the channel side, asked them what help they needed. And he asked us what he needs to do to drive growth."
Jim Carter, manager, solution architecture, for dcVAST Inc., a Downers Grove, Ill.-based solution provider is hopeful that Hurd, who Carter agreed is well known to visit VARs and end users and be a big channel advocate, can bring some of that partner-friendly touch to Oracle.
"It's pretty obvious where Oracle likes the channel and where Oracle doesn't want the channel to participate," he said. "It will be interesting to see if he can make some [headway] in that area."
Another important strategy of Hurd's is to build a strong sales force, Convery said.
"But it's not just a direct sales force. It's a sales force that supports the channel," he said.
But it isn't just Hurd's channel friendliness that has partners pumped about his surfacing at Oracle. Equally important to Oracle VARs as they jockey to compete with the likes of IBM and HP, is how Hurd flexes Oracle's new-found hardware muscle that came with the addition of Sun Microsystems to the fold, which Oracle acquired last year for $7.4 billion.
The ability for Hurd to wed hardware and software, skills Hurd leveraged at HP and in his previous role as head of Teredata, is a "valuable asset" to Oracle at a time when companies are looking to compete with a complete end-to-end lifecycle of software and hardware offerings.
Next: Acquisitions And Innovation Are Hurd's Bread And Butter
Merging the stack, plus Hurd's penchant for high-profile acquisitions, is a boon, solutions providers said.
"He's a big M&A guy and can merge organizations," Pyle said.
Citing Hurd's big-bang acquisition track record at HP, Venero said he expects Hurd to hit the ground running and scoop up companies that fortify Oracle's place in the market.
"Remember, it's Mark. We could see some acquisitions fairly quickly. Based on his growth strategy, acquisitions have to be part of that strategy," Venero said. "Just look what he did with EDS, 3Com, and Palm. It's part of his iconic vision."
"When an individual like Mark Hurd goes to a new company and is going to make changes, we want to be on the forefront of those changes versus being on the tail end of it," Venero said. "We want to be there with Oracle at the start of the new Mark Hurd era versus at the tail end when it has already been established, built and baked."
And Hurd's prowess for internal development and innovation through a string of blockbuster acquisition will be a big win, partners said.
"Oracle already has a strong software business and a strong hardware R&D thanks to its acquisition of Sun. And Hurd's growth strategy includes both acquisitions and R&D," Denali's Convery added. "Hurd is excellent at understanding the gaps, and not just acquire companies but also blending it with R&D. Hurd is a leader. He's not just going to plan, but plan and execute."
"With acquisitions and a channel focused initiative, Hurd can scale Oracle to three times what it is today," said Venero. "Today we have no real focused plan around Oracle. Post-Hurd, we will have an absolute business plan on how to make the new Oracle under Mark's leadership a bigger part of Future Tech."
Steven Burke, Scott Campbell and Joseph F. Kovar contributed to this article.