Resellers could be squeezed out of sales of Oracle's low-end database after the software giant struck a deal to ship the product on Dell servers.
Under the agreement, Dell servers will ship with Oracle's Standard Edition One database pre-installed. Dell and Oracle will provide all the support services to businesses that buy the bundle.
Greg Carlow, managing director of Oracle reseller Repton, warned the move will cause hostility among partners, especially after Oracle had promised a more channel-friendly approach.
"It's going to alienate people and help Oracle's competitors," he said. "Resellers are going to be pushing boxes from Hewlett-Packard with Microsoft on them because that's where they'll make some money."
Phil Dawson, group director at analyst firm Meta Group, said: "It's certainly a channel shift." But he added that questions remain about Dell and Oracle's ability to handle such large volumes of support requests.
Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison said he "couldn't think of a better partner than Dell" to offer such a deal. "Dell has established itself as the place to go for packages such as this, and it does a better job of delivering them than anyone else," he said.
Ellison said improvements in the automated tuning of the database in Oracle's latest software made it easy for businesses to get up and running with a pre-installed copy.
But Carlow questioned this. "Who's kidding who here?" he said. "It's easy to say these things can be automated, but in reality, when you are running substantial databases for complex applications, such as accounting or personnel systems, you need a lot of services."
Oracle Standard Edition One is aimed at SMEs. The agreement initially will see Dell's PowerEdge 2600 or 2650 servers running Linux, shipping with a copy of Standard Edition One for just $4,108, instead of the usual $4,995 per processor.
Later this year, the software will be pre-installed on the servers running either Windows or Linux.
While resellers remain confident that SMEs need channel expertise to build databases, the deal could hamper their efforts to get into larger accounts.
Oracle is hoping to promote its vision of grid computing. According to Ellison, the Dell contract will prove to be a springboard for wider adoption of grids by demonstrating the value of using clusters of low-end servers.
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