Let's Hear It For Exchange; Oracle's Culture Of Fear And Other Tidbits


So what's up with Exchange Server?

Sources at Microsoft have said for some time that key personnel are fleeing the e-mail server effort because it wasn't seen as "strategic."

Indeed, a lot of the workgroup/groupware/add-your-favorite-collaboration-connoting-buzzword-here stuff that had been promised for Exchange back in the day, ended up in SharePoint Portal Server and then in the Windows SharePoint Services instead. Exchange never became the collaborative development environment Microsoft once said it would be.

If you don't believe it, ask the ISVs who were so miffed at Lotus' inattention that they fled the Notes/Domino coop for Exchange only to find Microsoft stranded them too. Talk about a rough couple of years.

And yet ... there are signs that Microsoft big wigs are paying more attention to Exchange. For one thing, Microsoft is telling pundits that Exchange became a billion dollar business for the first time last year. These numbers are always tricky, but even a soft billion is real dough these days.

In addition, the company recently named Jeff Ressler as a director for Exchange. Ressler, sources say, is a respected insider, and just finished a gig as Bill Gates speechwriter, also spent time in the SQL Server Group. (And did time at Oracle before that.)

Ressler is a high-profile internal hire.

This is good news after a raft of sad stuff coming out of the group in the last 18 months. Microsoft promised, then pulled back on a major "Kodiak" release of Exchange to run on a nifty new relational data store. Well, we all know now about the trials and tribulations of bringing WinFS to market. CRN reported more than a year ago—that Microsoft was paving the way for a retreat on that front when it came to Exchange.

Now another Web site is reporting that the next version of Exchange, due next year, will not use this relational store. Okay then. The problem with this scenario is that most folks know the tried-and-true JET engine underlying the current release is creaky. So will there be some kind of Jet-plus or WinFS Jr. store? Stay tuned.

Even as Microsoft promised then pulled back on a major "Kodiak" version of Exchange server with a brand new, nifty relational data store foundation, then promised and pulled back on various "Edge Services" , that the company has decided that Exchange Server is indeed important. Maybe that has something do with an aggressively priced Oracle Collaboration Suite that at least gives customer an option to bargain down Microsoft price. Or maybe that IBM Software has shown some chutzpah with its two-prong Domino/Workplace strategy and that has Microsoft shaking some trees to revive its Exchange effort.

ORACLE'S CULTURE WARS

Several thousand PeopleSoft employees are on tenterhooks this week, waiting for Oracle to start wielding its axe. Word has it that 6,000 Bay Area jobs are most definitely at risk.

Given Oracle's well-documented corporate culture, those who get canned might want to count their blessings. While Oracle's channel execs continue to preach the "work well with others" gospel, former insiders recount just how bloody—albeit prosperous—an Oracle gig can be.

It's well known how the company make life hell for its channel partners, but an Oracle direct sales job ain't no bed of roses either.

"Not only does Larry not want to double-comp any sale, he doesn't want to comp his own people in the first place. He wants it all," says one former sales executive. But he DOES comp, if they get the job gone, because even Larry, with his fast boats, planes, and cars, can't be everywhere.

Ellison once famously said that he saw no reason to pay a partner AND an Oracle rep on the same software sale. Such "double comping" remains anathema, even though Oracle co-president Charles Phillips and channel chief Rauline Ochs try to work on culture change.

So, why do some reps stay so long? The question was met by the audio equivalent of a dumbstruck stare. An aggressive Oracle rep (that's a redundancy) can pull down millions of dollars annually, he said. Of course the flip side, is anyone not making their numbers is toast pretty damn fast.

The fact is, Oracle has the big database name and companies continue to buy even though they are miffed at pricing and licensing issues. Support fees are a particularly sticky wicket, he noted.

What gets some Oracle reps' goats is the company recently changed compensation to the detriment of the "technology" or database sales reps and in favor of the apps sales guys. That means margins are fatter, the grass is greener, on the apps side and have been since October.

What can you say about a multi-billion-dollar powerhouse that is described by its very best partners and customers alike as dysfunctional in extremis? There's a lot of co-dependency going on here folks.

Fun Reading

For dysfunction of another kind, check out ex-CRNer Mike Kanellos' hilarious take on this week's Apple's MacWorld festivities.