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#6 Newsmaker: Judson Althoff of Oracle

Oracle's channel chief is leading the direct-first software giant into the channel, and is trying to convince partners there's opportunity with Oracle

Long-known as a direct first company, and stubbornly so, enterprise software vendor Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL) made some tentative steps to embrace the channel in 2010: but it will clearly be on Oracle’s own terms.

Leading Oracle’s channel outreach is channel chief Judson Althoff, and his task became more important (and more daunting) with Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems, with its large channel program.

While the Sun acquisition happened in 2009, it was early in 2010 that Althoff began to roll-out its new channel philosophy and give Sun partners a sense of their expected role with Oracle.

Essentially, if a partner specializes, defines their value-proposition and adds value, there’s a place for them with Oracle.

The biggest opportunity they see for the channel is tapping the 130,000 Oracle customers today that are greenfield to Sun and showing them the value of running integrated Oracle software and applications on Sun hardware, adding Oracle is working to ensure that integration is as compelling as possible.

While Oracle will remain direct-sales focused and doesn’t expect major shifts in its channel centricity, it expects the size of the overall pie will grow substantially, creating a large business opportunity for partners.

In its named accounts, Oracle will be looking to the channel to play a services role, and supplement Oracle’s direct team in areas it’s unable or unwilling to cover.

For that part of the business, Oracle will be favouring those partners that have invested in specialization and certification.

While Althoff focused on winning-over skeptical partners, Oracle got a new co-president as Oracle majority shareholder Larry Ellison brought in former Hewlett-Packard Co. president and CEO Mark Hurd.

Hurd was back on the market following a scandal involving an alleged inappropriate relationship with a contractor and expense improprieties, and his hiring by Oracle certainly raised many eyebrows in the industry.

Since then, HP has sued Hurd stating that he will not be able to fulfill his current role at Oracle without violating a confidentiality agreement tied to his HP severance package.Oracle continued its progress on its long-awaited Fusion Applications in 2010.

Some five years in the making, Fusion is now slated for release early in 2011. The vendor also jumped on the cloud computing bandwagon after some earlier skepticism. Oracle offers its Oracle On Demand service, in which Oracle applications are accessible via a cloud format. Oracle Fusion Middleware, meanwhile, can be deployed in a public SaaS (software-as-a-service) model. Also, Oracle will let users run Oracle technology in third-party public cloud infrastructures.

Finally, Oracle won its long-standing legal battle with rival SAP AG over SAP’s TommorowNow subsidiary and its access of confidential software information from Oracle. In November, a district court jury in Oakland, Calif. awarded Oracle US$1.3 billion in damages from SAP for corporate theft.