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Sun Canada and Oracle may suffer a partner culture clash

An IDC Canada analyst says Oracle will have some decisions to make once the Sun acquisition closes around two different approaches to partner engagement

Until its acquisition of Sun Microsystems closes, executives from Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL)are staying tight-lipped about their plans for integrating the Sun business, and Sun executives have been equally tight-lipped. But for Sun’s Canadian partners, one of the questions that’s emerging is around partner culture and the go-to-market approach.

Paul Edwards, director of SMB and channels research with IDC Canada, notes that Oracle runs a North American model focused on sales and services, with little to no Canadian management. On the other hand, Sun Canada runs an “Americas” model with a strong Canadian management team and identity, led by Sun Canada president Michael Richardson, and John Cammalleri on the channel side as vice-president, channels and alliances.

It’s two distinctly different approaches, and presents some decisions to make for Oracle around just how deeply into Oracle it plans to integrate Sun, and just how closely it will seek to align regional go to market strategies with the global organization.

“While the strong presence of Sun Canada management might create enough critical mass to allow the combined Oracle-Sun entity to re-establish/maintain a stronger and more directly managed Canadian presence, it is likely that there will be some restructuring to allow Oracle to eek out some higher margins for its next fiscal year,” said Edwards.

While how Oracle will integrate the Sun business remains to be seen, Edwards notes there are also important differences in the profiles of the two companies typical channel partners.

Oracle partners are divided between those that focus on its technology products, such as database and would have a greater focus on resale than services, and application partners, which would have a higher degree of consulting and application integration expertise, said Edwards.

On the other hand, he said while Sun has recently has been trying to position its partners to create more opportunity within accounts for Sun’s full product portfolio, Sun partners predominantly remain infrastructure-focused resellers with various degrees of services capabilities, mostly around support and training.

“The partners among the two vendors are relatively different in their business models and skill sets, which will require a dedicated focus from Oracle in integrating and supporting the Sun partners,” said Edwards. “Sun partners could potentially play a strong role in selling the Oracle database, meaning the Sun partners will fit more securely within Oracle’s Technology product ecosystem rather than its Application ecosystem.”

For Avnet Technology Solutions (ATS), which has substantial business with both vendors, however the integration proceeds they’ll be ready to adjust to model that emerges said Brian Aebig, vice-president and general manager of ATS Canada.

“Until the acquisition is done there’s still two discrete organizations with different expectations of what they ask of their supply chain, and we’ll continue to serve their needs as best we can,” said Aebig. “We don’t know where it will go but regardless, we have a model that will address their needs.”

As a software-only vendor, Oracle asks different things of Avnet then Sun does with its hardware and services plays, said Aebig. The new company will have to determine what it will need.

“It would be silly to project current Oracle expectations on what the future might look like with the expectation it would be a vanilla transfer,” said Aebig.

A spokesperson for Sun Canada declined to comment on the possible channel alignment, post-acquisition.