Oracle plans to attack the cloud computing opportunity with a slew of new channel offerings for its 25,000 partners, including programs that will designate specialized Oracle partners as cloud builders and others that will pay partners referral fees and extra incentives for their cloud integration expertise.
It's the latest in a series of cloud-centric moves from the software giant, for which a software-and-services strategy is seen as increasingly important as its hardware business continues to erode. The launch is actually five distinct channel offerings that Judson Althoff, Oracle senior vice president, worldwide alliances and channels, is scheduled to unveil to partners during an Oracle Partner Network (OPN) keynote on Sunday -- the channel kickoff to Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco.
In an exclusive interview with CRN leading up to the conference, Althoff said the new programs fall right in line with both the partner specialization and hardware-software "engineered systems" strategies toward which Oracle has been pushing partners for some time now. Topping that list is a specific designation for Oracle Cloud Builders, a branded certification intended for those Oracle partners that can develop comprehensive private cloud infrastructure expertise.
"It's a certification that cuts across the ability to build private clouds based on Oracle technology, all the way from servers and storage through middleware as well as systems, all engineered to work together as a true platform," Althoff told CRN. "What it means is that these partners are not only labeled as such, but they'll be our preferred go-to-market [partners] in this space."
Oracle needs a way to quickly identify, and reward, those partners most qualified to sell Oracle private cloud stacks.
"Many of our customers in their RFPs request to get listings of all the partners in a given area," Althoff said. "So now when a customer says, 'We're looking to build a private cloud' and is based in Omaha, and 'What do you have to build that skill set,' the ones that have the specialization will rise to the top."
There's no restriction on which partners can apply for that specialization, and they'll be assessed on things like sales, business qualifications and customer reference-ability, Althoff said. Applications for the Cloud Builder specialization should go live about 30 days following the announcement.
Promoting partners that can go full-stack with Oracle is a major priority, Althoff said. It's also a way to rationalize both Oracle's organic R&D investment as well as the products and platforms it's acquired by buying companies like Endeca, Taleo, RightNow and Sun Microsystems by asking partners to expand their portfolios with a full complement of hardware and software.
"We've been working since the acquisition of Sun to cross-pollinate our hardware and software partners," Althoff said.
NEXT: Specializations For Partners In Public CloudThe other new Oracle programs set to be announced Sunday address public cloud offerings, Oracle’s Althoff said. For starters, Oracle partners will now be able to register business they've referred to Oracle's public cloud services and receive a commission after the deal is closed. Althoff said that program would be ideal for partners that don't do all that much business with Oracle and are looking for a minimum-commitment way into OPN.
"The idea here is a crawl, walk, run strategy," he said. "After you've done it, maybe you'll take the material and move toward implementation services and full lifecycle. It's a strategy designed to help our entire partner ecosystem."
Next up is a program that will provide what Althoff called Rapid Start Cloud Specializations to integrator partners and VARs with significant services practices. Oracle will provide how-to-style "cookbooks," created by Oracle's consulting group, along with Oracle Development, to help partners put together cloud solutions with the idea of rapid deployment for customers using Oracle's frameworks and intellectual property.
A fourth new program combines the referral aspect and those Rapid Start cloud specializations -- partners that, according to Althoff, not only resell public cloud-based services to Oracle partners at several different levels but also own the customer relationship going forward.
"Today, if you're a Salesforce partner, it's a pretty linear approach. You give Salesforce the contract, and maybe do a little implementation work, and move on to the next one," Althoff said. But, Oracle wants to grow partners beyond merely reselling public cloud-based services, he said, to full lifecycle management with the ability to participate at every level with customers buying those services, he explained.
"Obviously, cloud is going to be a big splash at this show," said Howard Moore, president and CEO of Keste, a Plano, Texas-based Oracle Platinum partner that's all-in with Oracle's cloud computing direction and has had meetings with Althoff about the vendor's cloud offerings.
"We're the guys that can help companies implement a private cloud," Moore said, pointing to the expertise Keste has developed with Oracle's assistance and the solution provider's embrace of Oracle's "complete stack" of hardware and software offerings.
"When I think of cloud, I think of deployment options. And, our clients are asking for deployment options all the time," said Tim Robinson, general manager of the Oracle CRM practice at Perficient, a St. Louis-based Oracle partner.
Like Moore, Robinson sees cloud computing being the dominant theme of next week's Oracle OpenWorld show, including news around the vendor's Fusion applications that can be deployed in the cloud and the hardware "engineered systems" appliances to support them.
Robinson said that Perficient would "absolutely" be working with Oracle to get certified under the company's cloud specialization programs.
NEXT: ISV Recruitment For Oracle's Cloud PlatformThe fifth and final of the new channel offerings targets Oracle ISVs, who will now be able to stage their applications using Oracle as a platform-as-a-service (PaaS). How it works is that Oracle's roughly 10,000 ISVs that certify with Oracle through its databases, middleware, Java and other products will now be able to take on-premise applications and launch them directly from the Oracle cloud.
"This is a huge deal," Oracle’s Althoff said. "Every development cycle, an ISV has a choice. The choice is well, do I take the leap and turn my on-premise app into a service, or do I invest in more functionality that makes my solution more competitive. We're adding incrementally to their solutions. We think we're rapidly going to become the most interesting company for people to partner with in this space."
One category to watch, Althoff added, is the number of traditional VARs investing in software development practices to make themselves more ISV-like and own the customer spend on applications.
"The smart ones are doing it," Althoff said. "We would welcome more VARs investing in this category."
Oracle stated back in May that this year's OpenWorld show would be more partner-focused, something many partners took to mean a doubling down on Oracle's channel strategy and the expected cloud-focused programs.
But according to Althoff, Oracle has also made substantial headway in other areas such as the SMB segment, for which it released an entry-level scalable tape system over the summer, and the recruitment of channel partners from archival Hewlett-Packard.
"We've successfully recruited their top 10 partners all in the last three months," Althoff said. "We have more offers, we have a broader set of products and a compelling value proposition."
Overall, said Althoff, Oracle in the past year grew from 20,000 to 25,000 partners, and about 40 percent of Oracle's revenue goes through the channel now. Getting that to 50 percent isn't out of the question, he said, but the actual percentage of revenue is more a factor of whether Oracle acquires and integrates new products that better serve its global 2000 accounts or make more sense for customers served by the channel.
Rick Whiting contributed to this story.
PUBLISHED SEPT. 28, 2012