The public cloud market is extremely crowded, with tech giants lining up to lure partners into working with them to take their technology to customers.
AWS, Microsoft and Google are among some of the biggest names in the space, but Oracle is keen to ensure its name is in the mix too.
Against this backdrop, Oracle's UK channel boss Simon Hill sat down with CRN to appraise the market, and explain how his firm is trying to stand out.
What's new in the Oracle partner channel? Can you sum up the partner strategy and where you are going with your channel?
Our statement of intent is absolutely about taking our customers - via partners - to the public cloud. Our public cloud offering is extremely strong. Look at SaaS, PaaS and IaaS - it's very much the market leader, and we also have the differentiation of being the only organisation with that full, integrated stack from a public cloud perspective. We've been working on it for 10 years.
The install base is massive in terms of our product portfolio. That's applications, middleware, database, infrastructure, systems and storage. The base is absolutely huge. Look at our base at the moment, it offers massive opportunity. We're all about the base. I am reliably informed that is a song. It's all about that base.
What does your partner model look like? How do you pay them, and how is this changing in light of your move towards the cloud?
One of the key differences is the ability for the partners to renew those contracts. Before, in the on-premise world, a lot of the support contracts were renewed direct with Oracle. We had small partner programmes, but not a comprehensive one. With cloud, the partner has the opportunity to take the ARR [annual recurring revenue] and to go and renew those contracts. We want those partners to be actively working with them and getting that customer live, getting them to reflect a use case, and make sure the renewal is a non-event. That annuity stream is something partners haven't typically had from an Oracle perspective. That's probably the key thing that has changed. It's a lucrative model for partners to take advantage of.
So does this mean partners own their own customers? They are presumably in favour of this?
When they've got those annuity streams, they've got account control. We want them to have that kind of control because from a public cloud perspective, we are lining up the use cases because that gives us the renewals. We want partners to be doing that because we can't do everything. We have myriad customers in the UK, so we need partners to make sure we get those renewals.
Although you're encouraging your partners to the cloud financially, do you find that there is an issue in changing their mind sets to start thinking about the cloud? How are you addressing this?
There are emotional levels, financial levels and strategic levels. We are seeing that early-adopter partners are working with early-adopter partners from a public cloud perspective, which is great. We have loads of examples of that. It's about how we take it out of the early adopters and get into the small and medium-sized customers and the start-ups. How do I enable the rest of those partners to become the second wave? I have a lot of activity from early adopter to early adopters. But how can we get those in that next layer down?
How do we actually do that? We're very much focused on what we can do from an enablement point of view - specialisation, upskilling and training. That's there and that works well. But there are other factors at play. There might be cashflow implications for partners, there may well be strategic directions, and [lack of] willingness to invest. We are seeing a lot of M&A activity, and a lot of marriages between Oracle ecosystem partners. The biggest thing that will help the Oracle ecosystem is the customer desire to do something.
You mentioned there is a lot of M&A activity going on among partners. Why do you think this is, and will it continue?
It's happening at such a fast pace, so it makes sense so that they can meet those customers' demands. I think we will see more of it and the pace will not slow down. From an Oracle point of view, look at customers - they might have databases, but not applications, so they can't service that. But when a customer talks about cloud, they're not talking about the context of Oracle. To meet customers' demands from a cloud perspective, they need to be able to talk about the integrated cloud. There are lots of informal relationships going on too. I would actively encourage that and try to broker more of that, so that we can address those customer needs.
The public cloud space is a crowded market, with players such as AWS, Microsoft and Google all involved. What is your unique offering to the channel with this in mind?
It's simple: it's the integrated stack. Look at AWS, it's IaaS - it's just one part of the integrated stack. We could say we are faster and cheaper than AWS, but it's not just about that. Think about the journey to cloud - you could just host a particular application on IaaS, or you might want to get that to SaaS, and then you might want to add the middleware. Oracle provides the option to have that full integrated stack and that option to migrate over time to accommodate customer needs over time. You could go into the features and benefits, but customers and partners are recognising it's not just about IaaS or about Azure-as-a-service. It's about the full stack being integrated, and that's our unique proposition.
You're talking a lot about cloud. What is your view on your partners that are reluctant to make the move? How tolerant are you of those that have no intention to move towards the cloud any time soon?
It's exciting times and our statement intent is Oracle public cloud - and there is a huge opportunity with the base. But we're also realistic. We know not all customers are going to go to public cloud tomorrow. We would like to have an enabled vehicle to provide customers with the option to go to cloud. That's what we want. It's about enabling our partners to offer the right thing at the right time to get the customer on that journey to public cloud. We're all about making sure partners can see the art of the possible. But if it's not in their DNA, that's OK too. There will still be a requirement over the next 10 years for on-premise stuff.
Many IT vendors talk about the skills gap, specifically on cloud. What's your view about how the issue can be solved?
We're focusing on enabling partners and there are challenges, such as skills. We're seeing some unique solutions to this issue. Some partners, because of the lack of skills around cloud, are taking on swathes of graduates and educating them from scratch. They have no legacy thinking or on-premise background. It's really interesting how a lot of the partners are seeing that skills are the key to a lot of this stuff. The profile of person you need for the public cloud advisory is much less technical - it's more consultancy and about the bigger picture. There is a skills shortage, and it's interesting to see how partners solve it. M&A is one, skills training is another, and investing in born-in-cloud consultants and training them up themselves.
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