One-time database specialist Oracle has been growing in revenue terms through some markets twice as fast as consumer star Apple, and three times as fast as Asus, a high-growth, newer player.
That is what Jeremy Davies (pictured, below right), chief executive and founder of Context, told attendees at the CRN Partner Connect event last month. Oracle grew six times as fast as IBM and 12 times as fast as Cisco, he said, although the latter are still strong performers.
“Vendors in distribution over the past three Q1s that have done well include Cisco, IBM, Lenovo, VMware, Apple, NetApp, Oracle, Symantec and Citrix,” Davies said. “The guys growing fantastically, at more than 100 per cent, are Apple, Oracle and Asus.”
Market research giant IDC suggested last year that Oracle could even be on track to become the “Apple” of the enterprise. Once a database specialist, the vendor steered by Larry Ellison has broadened its vision over the years; learning more from consumers and offering hardware and software that works together - as helped by Sun. Its offerings are at a higher price point, and it is one of the last IT firms led by its charismatic original founder.
“Just perhaps, Oracle is finally doing for the enterprise what Apple has been doing for consumers for some time now: delivering complete, well-engineered solutions that do what they say on the box,” according to the IDC note.
If so, perhaps Oracle will gradually start to see more value in its channel, and behave accordingly. When selling B2B, resellers are even more important than when selling to consumers.
Stuart Fenton, EMEA president of long-time Oracle reseller partner Insight UK, thinks this may already be happening. There is certainly some growth in client demand, especially as Oracle has gone on making various strategic acquisitions, he confirms.
The vendor has also been good at resourcing its resellers, and definitely appears to understand the value of the channel more and more. Over time, the large vendor has become easier to deal with for reseller partners.
“We find Oracle an excellent partner,” says Fenton. “Although we do run into the occasional issue with it selling direct, and Oracle has not worked out how to ensure the channel partner benefits from the renewals.”
Insight UK deals with an EMEA account manager based in Italy, but this has not meant support has been equally remote. According to Fenton, the VAR has seen more of the Oracle account manager in the UK office than of some, representing other vendors, who have been based locally.
The reseller has been selling Oracle software, services and asset management, and is looking at moving further into Oracle hardware. “We have always sold the Sun hardware but now we are looking at some of the key storage or database server solutions,” says Fenton.
Fenton (pictured, left) adds, though, that he thinks the vendor still needs to do more work on its cloud model, which is likely to go on metamorphosing over the next couple of years - despite Ellison’s billing of the 6 June cloud rebadging and support announcements as a confirmation of “the most comprehensive cloud on planet Earth”.
The vendor’s platform services, application services and social services are all completely managed, hosted and supported by Oracle harnessing its Exadata and Exalogic enterprise-grade infrastructure. But the announcement may perhaps be seen as more of an evolution than a revolution.
“With IT in the cloud, the smaller organisations will probably adopt it first. Whether Oracle is successful in that proposition for the smaller space remains to be seen,” notes Fenton. “The cost of acquiring SMBs and monitoring those customers can be prohibitive, even if it might be the bigger part of the market. Yet Oracle, for our UK business, is certainly a significant partner.”
And there is no question that business intelligence and analytics requirements - “natural” strengths for a vendor with a history in database technologies - are becoming more of a priority for many customer organisations, Fenton agrees.
Changing partner approach
As reported on ChannelWeb 30 May, the vendor has made a slew of changes to its partner account management and channel strategy, from the start of its fiscal year on 1 June. Resellers will now get one account manager for all their lines of business, instead of dealing with different people for different segments.
They will also now be classified by their level of interaction and size as Strategic (mostly vendors and big SIs), Investment (most larger resellers) or Managed (the rest).
The channel has largely welcomed the changes, with several agreeing they will no longer be pulled in different directions by different account managers. Business plans will be more unified also.
According to Oracle, its partner network now offers 1,000 free online education offerings to encourage partners to sell more of its Fusion CRM, financials and human resources apps. Its Oracle University also offers 23 instructor-led courses.
Oracle was in a quiet period at press time, meaning it is forbidden to make new announcements currently that might affect its share trading, and so declined to comment for this feature.
However, Angela Eager, research director for enterprise software and application services at analyst TechMarketView, follows Oracle closely. She agrees that the vendor may well be increasingly turning to the channel - for good reason.
“I think it is going to be a bit more interested in the channel. I think a lot of its new technology and investments are involved in the whole Exa brand activity, analytics, big data, cloud, and so on. These sorts of things mean that despite its vast resources, it needs the partner community,” she says. “Oracle needs developers, ISVs, services providers and so on, to bring apps and implementations to market.”
This will even mean, as time goes on, grappling with the best ways to serve SMBs. Certainly Oracle - just like many other multinational giants - has been talking up how it will serve smaller companies for years. But now it is actually starting to happen, suggests Eager, not least because it has to.
“The large-enterprise market is not in such a growth mode that Oracle would not need to go there,” she says. “The smaller business market has a lot of opportunity but you need partners to go into those areas.”
Oracle is certainly one of the higher-growth companies, although not in all sectors. Performance has fluctuated over the years, says Eager, with challenging areas including new licences and applications growth versus maintenance. Despite this, though, revenue remains strong, she agrees.
Its cloud app licensing and subscriptions model will need work to ensure customers get the flexibility they require, she suggests, noting that Fusion apps were not originally constructed for the cloud.
The vendor plays effectively in a range of arenas beyond the database, and is continuing to grow by acquisition - although differently than IBM, according to Eager. Recent acquisitions Collective Intellect and Vitrue also show Oracle moving in on trends such as social media as well as staying abreast of competitors such as SAP, Salesforce.com and Microsoft.
Insight UK’s Fenton, however, doubts whether Oracle can ever be the “Apple” for the enterprise - or at least not without qualification. “Apple is incredibly cool,” Fenton says. “I am not sure that enterprise technology will ever be on the same scale of cool as Apple.”
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