It's OOW Time

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Glancing through the briefing paper Oracle distributed in advance of its annual Oracle OpenWorld love fest, some interesting things emerge.

First, apparently a mere grid, is no longer enough. One must go to a "MegaGrid." Such is the subject of a Tuesday panel featuring Oracle, Dell, EMC, and Intel execs. Apparently, to boost adoption of enterprise grid computing, vendors must ensure that their technologies interoperate.

Wow. No kidding!

Not to be snarky, but it does amuse long-time industry watchers to see vendors who had touted their own technologies for everything now at least pay lip service to real world user concerns.

But somehow, all of this peace-love-and-understanding seems to mask .well yet another land grab. Oracle clearly wants more companies who use its database to move to its middleware, app server and applications. On Sunday, Oracle President Charles Phillips encouraged database partners to get up to speed on the app server as well and promised a new certification for those who are adept at both. Basically, Oracle wants to certify partners on its entire platform.

Oracle is not alone in its quest. For all its talk of federating data from anywhere in the universe, IBM wants more companies to slather on more, more, more of its middleware, whether it's MQSeries or WebSphere-flavor-of-the-week. And don't get me started on Microsoft's much-touted software stack.

You can't blame these guys. It's a tough economy and one way to grow is to get a bigger, Sasquatch-like footprint in existing accounts.

But customers, as these vendors must certainly know by now, ain't ripping stuff out. They are adding servers, maybe applications, to their existing infrastructure. And that is why integrators are so key to the ecosystem.

Anyway, at Oracle OpenWorld, the first to merge the company's traditional applications and database showcases, we're all gearing up to hear about the "Tsunami" project, or content-management-for-the-rest-of-us, as Burton Group Analyst Pete O'Kelly dubbed it. "Their message is that with Oracle database's native XML capability, you won't need any more specialized tools for managing all types of content," O'Kelly says.

Oracle's biggest problem is not technological--it is sociological, kind of along the lines of working well with others.

"The biggest problem Oracle has vs. IBM and Microsoft is that everybody hates them," said one long-time industry watcher. Customers are irked at pricing and licensing policies, which Oracle has tried to address with less expensive packaging. And partners always seem to look and feel like they've gone nine rounds after an Oracle engagement.

Even Oracle execs acknowledged as much at a partner-only event Sunday afternoon. "We haven't been exactly the most partner-friendly organization in the past," said Keith Block, Oracle's top North America sales guy. "But, we are making strides."

And the company trotted out stats to back up his point. Revenue flowing through VARs and VADs was up 20 percent year over year, Block noted. Other fun facts:

Nearly half (47 percent) of Oracle's worldwide new license revenue went via partners in FY 2005.

More than half of Oracle's e-business Suite On Demand sales had partner involvement.

Oracle execs said partners can now apply for discounts on database and other sales, bypassing Oracle's field and direct sales organizations. This is all good news.

And yet.. there was very little applause. Clearly these partners have heard this all before and been burned before. They love Oracle's technology because it works, but they're caught in some sort of love-hate dysfunctional relationship.

And as many of the big names as Oracle rolled out for the partner event—- Rauline Ochs, Charles Phillips, Keith Block, all the top sales folks, there was one very conspicuous absence: Larry Ellison.

Ellison will keynote on Wednesday, but if partners are really so critical to Oracle's future, where was he on Sunday?

Most partners will tell you, that until Ellison—-who is now just CEO, no longer chairman and president as well--really, really backs Oracle's partner efforts publicly, skepticism if not cynicism will prevail.

They're willing to listen, but are watching, and waiting, for execution.

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