Oracle sees North American partners, not Canadian partners

Broomfield, Colo.- As legacy Sun Microsystems get their heads around the new channel and sales culture under Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL), Sun’s Canadian partners may have more adjustments to make than others. While Sun had a Canadian president, channel chief and partner organization, under Oracle the United States and Canada are viewed as one North American market.

In an interview with CDN at value-added distributor Avnet Technology Solutions‘ (ATS) (NYSE: AVT) annual Summit partner conference, Tom Wagner, group vice-president, North American alliances and channel sales, said Oracle has a very high-quality portfolio of channel partners in Canada, and he’s had a chance to talk with many of them since the Sun deal closed. In his opinion, he said the market dynamics and forces in play in Canada are little different than those in the U.S.

“We do look at it as a North American market, not a U.S. and Canadian market,” said Wagner. “The selling opportunities are virtually identical, and the program architecture we’re rolling-out and opportunities for partners apply for Canadian partners as well.”

Wagner said it’s a very different structure from Sun’s model, but while there won’t be a separate Canadian program, for the partners on the ground there should be little difference in terms of access to channel account managers and other support.

“We still have the same number of channel manager and partner manager resources,” said Wagner. “What’s happening on the street hasn’t changed. It’s a different management infrastructure, but the machine will run in a manner consistent with how it ran before. The principles that fuel that machine haven’t changed.”

Wagner said Oracle sees opportunity for the channel in Canada both in the mid-market and in convincing the Canadian portion of the 130,000 Oracle customers that aren’t using Sun hardware today to take a look at what it has to offer.

“Our strategy and desire here is for partners to be representing our IP products in the marketplace, with Solaris at the core,” said Wagner. “We’re going to sell our IP, that’s what we’re interested in from a Canadian perspective. The market opportunity is clearly equal to that in the broader market, and we need to take that message to the Canadian portion of the 130,000 Oracle partners not on Sun.”

HighVail Systems, a Toronto-based legacy Sun partner, is sticking with the new Oracle/Sun. HighVail president Bradley Brodkin said the transition under Oracle has been a challenge, but while the challenges haven’t completely gone away they are beginning to level out.

While some things have required adjustments, Brodkin said he has come to learn everything Oracle has been doing is consistent with its business practices and philosophy, and he believes those that stick with the company through the transition and adjust to the new culture will be well taken care of by Oracle.

“It’s very simple. With Oracle, you must add value at all levels,” said Brodkin. “I believe partners like ourselves who are still here and have a strong Solaris Sun legacy and have continued to maintain that skill set will benefit long-term, given that our relationship with our partners is very strong. They see us bringing value, and we can demonstrate that back to Oracle.”

As for partner support and access to the Oracle team, Brodkin said the Avnet conference has been a great opportunity to meet the senior Oracle channel executives that their channel managers report up to. And he added accessibility and communication on the ground have been improving.

Avnet sees Oracle’s North American approach as a positive said Mike Hurst, who leads the VAD’s Oracle business as vice-president, global supplier business executive. With a consistent engagement and operational model and processes for North America, Hurst said it will be easier for Avnet as Oracle’s distribution partner to leverage all its resources to support the Canadian channel. He added Oracle is looking for distributors to play a more hands-on channel support role than Sun did.

“Sun had much more of a direct-approach managing compensation and support at the VAR-level, while Oracle relies on the VAD to deliver that consistency,” said Hurst. “From a Canadian perspective, the challenge we had was the Sun program in Canada was different from the U.S. program in multiple ways. Using the North American framework gives us the proper lens to engage through our partners.”

Under the Oracle model, Hurst said he believes there are more opportunities for Canadian partners than there was under Sun, and more opportunity for growth for those partners that seize it.

“The challenge for Sun was we weren’t seeing any net new footprint and it became difficult to run a profitable business. Long-term, the outlook was cloudy,” said Hurst “I think this breathes new life into the partner community in Canada.”

Brian Aebig, vice-president and general manager for ATS Canada, added there’s also a strong services opportunity for the Canadian channel with Oracle.

“One of the biggest opportunities within the Oracle model is a services-led play. The more you’re hardware and software-only, the less value Oracle sees in what the channel provides,” said Aebig. “Our partners will see opportunities to lead with services, and embed Oracle software.”

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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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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