Five Things We Want To Hear More About At Oracle OpenWorld

The Oracle OpenWorld Agenda

Next week thousands of Oracle customers and channel partners will swarm into the Moscone Center in San Francisco for the 2010 edition of Oracle OpenWorld. What can they expect? And what should they?

From the appointment of Mark Hurd as president, to the integration of Sun with the rest of the company, to the expected debuted of the next-generation Fusion applications, Oracle has a lot on its plate right now. This is a golden opportunity for Oracle management to keep customers and channel partners in the loop on all the changes going on within the company.

Earlier this week in a Wall Street Journal article, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano was quoted as saying that he sees Oracle as a major competitor and praising CEO Larry Ellison for his management of the company. What Larry Ellison & Co. have to say next week should provide some hints as to whether they can continue that momentum.

Meet The New Boss

Oracle stunned everyone last week when it named former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd as president. Equally stunning was the unexpected departure of Oracle president Charles Phillips, whom Hurd is replacing.

Oracle is no longer just a software developer, but a full systems vendor with its newly acquired hardware server and storage products from its $7.3 billion buyout of Sun. The thinking seems to be that Hurd has more experience in managing a big company with broad hardware and software product lines. "I think it's a smart move," said Suresh Babu, vice president and general manager for manufacturing and life sciences at Sierra Atlantic, a major Oracle channel partner, of Hurd's appointment.

During an earnings call Thursday Hurd said his goal is to aggressively grow Oracle's systems business. At Oracle OpenWorld customers and solution providers will be looking for more details about his vision for Oracle and how the channel fits into those plans.

Sunny Disposition

It's been eight months since Oracle wrapped up the Sun acquisition and the company has done a pretty good job of providing customers and solution providers with road maps for how Sun and its products will be integrated into Oracle.

Oracle has to continue that momentum. Next week Oracle will unveil two high-end systems that combine Sun hardware with Oracle software, possibly at a Monday keynote speech by John Fowler, the executive vice president of systems who has become Oracle's point man for combined Sun-Oracle offerings.

Oracle has to clearly spell out where it sees the channel fitting into its systems plans. The company is going more direct in sales to large customers, cutting out some resellers in the process. Thursday Oracle president Safra Catz said Oracle had eliminated "numerous" reseller agreements worth hundreds of millions of dollars because they were not profitable.

Oracle And Open-Source Technology

When Oracle acquired Sun, it came into possession of technology that's critical to wide swaths of the IT industry. Just what does it have in mind for all this stuff? Some in-depth discussion is called for.

Last month Oracle, signaling that it will defend its Java technology more aggressively than Sun did, sued Google claiming that Google's Android mobile operating system violated Java patents and copyrights. But several years ago Sun released key elements of Java code under an open-source license.

The move raises questions about Oracle's long-range plans for its open-source technology. Fueling the concerns were Oracle's decision last month to discontinue development of OpenSolaris. Not helping were the departures of James Gosling, the original designer of the Java programming language, in April and Simon Phipps, Sun's chief open-source officer, in March.

Keeping Channel Partners In The Loop

Last year at Oracle OpenWorld Oracle channel executives launched a major overhaul of the Oracle PartnerNetwork program under which channel partners are encouraged to become certified experts in specific Oracle technologies and add more value and services.

While this puts more pressure on channel partners, it also provides them with more opportunities to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. "We're one of the early adopters of the OPN Specialized program," said Vishal Grover, CEO and president of Systime Computer Corp., an Oracle Platinum partner that works with the vendor's JD Edwards applications. "That has helped us a lot with the recognition. We're in a very elite group," he said.

An update on the program changes from channel chief Judson Althoff, (left), would be welcome. Word on the street is that Oracle will take the program even further next week, unveiling plans to offer advanced certifications for channel partners in certain Oracle products.

Fusion, Finally

After several years of bluster, blueprints and betas, Oracle will finally debut its next-generation Fusion line of applications. During the company's first-quarter earnings call Thursday, Ellison spilled the beans and said a complete line of Fusion applications -- including ERP, human resource management and CRM software -- would be unveiled next week.

"We're looking forward to finally getting out of the gate with some Fusion products," said Russ Homes, senior vice president for the enterprise application division at DLT Solutions, an Oracle reseller that focuses on government markets.

The real questions are just how soon these products will be available and what is the migration roadmap for customers and channel partners who work with Oracle's current application lines, including the Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, Siebel and JD Edwards applications.