#5 Newsmaker of 2009: John Cammalleri of Sun Microsystems

In a year and an era of some major acquisitions, perhaps few compare to the breadth and the ongoing buzz around Oracle‘s (NASDQ: ORCL) acquisition of technology pioneer Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA).

Announced in April but yet to close due to still outstanding regulatory issues, the US$7.4 billion deal has largely overshadowed what has been an otherwise busy year for Sun, with several key technology announcements and important moves to revise and refresh the company’s channel partner program.

As vice-president of channels and alliances with Sun Canada, John Cammalleri has had the challenging task of trying to keep onboard a channel base with questions about what the pending acquisition will mean for them and their businesses, and likely desirous of more information than he’s able to give them at this moment.

And at the same time, rivals such as HP and IBM have been hungrily eyeing Sun customers. Oracle has sought to assure Sun partners and customers of its ongoing commitment to key pieces of the Sun business. Speaking with CDN via e-mail, Cammalleri declined to go into detail about the pending Oracle deal.

“Our partners are expected to benefit by working with a single vendor to address customer needs for enterprise systems,” Cammalleri said, via e-mail. “Our partners will benefit from Oracle’s support of Sun partners and increased investment in the combined solutions.”

While the year has largely been overshadowed by Oracle, Sun has still been active on the technology innovation front.

Cammalleri points to the 7000 Unified Storage System and its ability to mix protocols and share storage in new ways. He’s also proud of Sun’s High Performance Computing (HPC) technologies and how Sun and Consortium Laval, Université du Québec, McGill and Eastern Quebec (CLUMEQ) leveraged Sun’s Constellation System to build one of the largest high-throughput interconnect supercomputers in Canada.

On the partner front, Sun took flak from some Canadian partners in the fall when, as part of a global compliance program, it required them to provide personal background information on themselves, their businesses and their employees that some partners felt was unnecessary and an invasion of their privacy.

“I did fill it out because the implication was if you want to be a Sun partner you’d better comply, so we did comply,” said one partner. “But it was overly intrusive.”

In a statement, Sun Canada told CDN the questionnaire was reviewed for global data privacy issues and was on par with questionnaires used by many other companies.

While the questionnaire raised some partners’ ire, Sun was busy in 2009 revamping its partner program to address partner concerns and to align better to Sun’s business priorities. Early in the year, the vendor made adjustments to incentives around net new customers that should allow partners to reap strong margins. Rewarding partners with higher margins, greater revenues and shortening the sales cycle was the goal. Sun has also brought deal registration to Canada.

“The majority of our business in Canada is now done through the channel,” said Cammalleri. “We wanted to ensure we enhanced and developed programs in line with current market conditions and strategies. We know how much time and effort our partners put into learning about our business to better serve their customers.”

Looking back at 2009, Cammalleri said the program changes have largely achieved what the vendor set out to do in Canada.

“We have penetrated more “net new” accounts in FY09 and have met our revenue targets for this market segment,” said Cammalleri. “We’re pleased with the efforts of our partners and look forward to building on these successes in the coming year.”

Speaking of 2010, Cammalleri said Sun’s partner program priorities will include continuing to drive down the total cost of ownership for partners through an integrated, standards-based enterprise product stack. That will include continuing to invest in the partner ecosystem and developing stronger and closer relationships with key partners.

“Every customer has the same two concerns about their IT infrastructure: they want more for less. They want to know how they can use IT as a competitive differentiator,” said Cammalleri. “Sun’s product set and channel value will allow Sun and our partners to monetize both of these opportunities in 2010.

And on the technology front, Cammalleri said Sun will continue to work with key system integrators to broaden offerings, achieve efficiencies, and drive further innovation in areas such as Unified Storage and HPC.

“In addition, we are planning to launch a new high-end 7000 series storage product in 2010, codenamed Anago, which will feature up to 384 3.5-inch SAS hot-swap hard drives and a 6Gbit/s SAS 2 switch fabric,” said Cammalleri.

And at some point, of course, the Oracle acquisition could close, meaning all bets for 2010 could well be off as the new owners execute their own plans for the company.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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