9. The New Oracle
Oracle has long been known as an aggressive direct-sales company, while its channel efforts were something of an afterthought. But Oracle's channel efforts really kicked into high gear this year with Mark Hurd, named Oracle president in September 2010, bringing the channel perspective to the executive suite. In his first year Hurd has delineated clear boundaries for direct and indirect sales, developed a new value proposition and distribution strategy for the channel, and boosted operational support for partners.
This year Oracle also began to reap the benefits of its Sun Microsystems acquisition, bolstering its partner roster with solution providers with hardware expertise who helped the company sell its "engineered systems" that combine Sun hardware with Oracle software. Case-in-point is the Oracle Database Appliance the company debuted in September, a channel-only product that has the potential to be a blockbuster and was the most visible proof in 2011 that Oracle is a serious channel player.