Oracle Expands "Specializations" Program, Adds Diamond Tier To Channel Program

The move, announced Sunday during the Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) Forum, part of Oracle OpenWorld, comes one year after the company debuted its original OPN Specializations program that offers partners training and certification in Oracle technologies.

Through the Specializations efforts Oracle hopes partners will focus more on building value-added services around its products rather than simply serving as a fulfillment channel.

"It's about competitive advantage," president Safra Catz said, addressing channel partners Sunday. "People are willing to pay for that expertise."

Oracle launched the OPN Specialized program at last year's Oracle OpenWorld and it now includes more than 50 specializations in database, middleware and application software and server hardware products. Specializations are open to Gold partners and are a requirement to become a Platinum-level partner.

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So far approximately 200 channel partners have won the "Specialized" designation with some 5,000 individuals having passed tests to become certified implementation specialists, said Judson Althoff, senior vice president of worldwide alliances and channels and embedded sales.

Another 2,000 partners have applied for Specialization certification and are "in the pipeline," Althoff said. The company's goal is to have 25,000 certified implementation specialists within the next year.

Enkitec, an Irving, Tex.-based integration services company that focuses on Oracle products, is a Platinum partner that's won specialization status in database and database security. President and co-founder Wade Nicolas said that gives his company some cachet in the marketplace.

"It's nice there are some hurdles and certifications that narrow the competitive field for us. We stand out as a services company," he said, adding that services have about 3.5 times the profit margin of reselling software licenses.

Althoff said that for every dollar partners earn for reselling Oracle products there are three dollars for partners in services.

Under the original OPN Specialized program channel partners had to have at least five certified implementation specialists in a specific area. And they had to have five Specializations in order to achieve Platinum level status.

To achieve the new "Advanced Specializations" designation, a channel partner must have 50 certified implementation specialists in a specific area. And to be designated a "Diamond" level partner a solution provider must have at least five Advanced Specializations, as well as meet other requirements such as having combined co-sell and indirect revenue of $40 million a year across three Oracle regions.

"This is a tall order; this is raising the bar," Althoff said. Accenture, Fujitsu, Infosys and WiPro have already won Advanced Specialization status, he said, and Accenture and InfoSys have been designated Diamond partners.