Oracle Raises Ante In ISV Wars

Oracle, IBM Vie For ISV hearts and minds.
The battle for ISVs rages on.

Tuesday, a full slate of Oracle execs will take the stage at the company's first ISV Forum in San Francisco to tout the company's ISV love.

For example, Oracle President Chuck Phillips' keynote Tuesday morning will highlight participation from ISVs like Documentum and Hyperion Solutions. Other attendees will include 170 Systems, Acucorp, Bakbone, BMC, and Informatica.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison as well as Chuck Rozwat, executive vice president server technologies, and Ron Wohl, executive vice president of applications development will also speak.

Among the things the database kingpin is doing, is make it easier for application and tools partners to migrate their existing wares to the latest Oracle 10g database.

The company is expanding its network of Migration Centers of Excellence, and will encourage ISVs to make use of them to test and certify their applications, according to Bronwyn Hastings, vice president of worldwide alliances and channels for Oracle, Redwood Shores, Calif.

Oracle works with hardware and other parnters like Hewlett Packard and Intel to host these centers.

It is also bulking up its Solutions Catalog and will encourage all ISVs to make information on their offerings available that way. And the vendor will give third-parties "more visibility" on customers clicking on their entries in what amounts to be a kind of "lead generation system," she added.

Oracle, like IBM and Microsoft, is trying to show off up a warmer and fuzzier persona to woo applications developers to their respective software stacks.

Joe Seiley, director of strategic partnerships for Acucorp, a San Diego ISV dedicated to building cross-database tools, said in the past two years Oracle has become markedly more proactive in wooing ISVs.

"There's been a significant degree of improvement in Oracle's responsiveness to us as a partner in the past two years. For many years we unilaterally supported integration of our environment into their database in response to requirements from our corporate and government customers," he noted.

What has changed of late is Oracle's readiness and willingness to work with Acucorp on testing and certifying its offerings on Oracle software, he said.

Each of the big three software players has had problematic relationships to third-party ISVs in the past and each now says it wants and needs these ISVs to win business. Microsoft's full slate of applications nearly across the board poses problems for its own ISV evangelists. The company is just coming off its latest ISV road show and is expected to announce new ISV initiatives at its worldwide partner conference later this month in Toronto.

IBM Software continues to mete out incremental announcements on its ISV front. This week, the company added government and insurance segments to its array of PartnerWorld Industry Networks. These networks, which promise to let IBM-centric ISVs take advantage of the company's huge sales and marketing resources, join existing offerings for banking, financial markets, telecom, retail and life sciences/healthcare segments. CRN broke the news of the PartnerWorld networks in February.

The company will likely add PartnerWorld networks for the automotive, electronics and manufacturing business segments later this year.

IBM boasts 600 ISV members of those networks in 43 countries. Participating ISVs in all of the industries can co-brand marketing materials and collateral, and bolster lead development, said Scott Hebner, vice president of marketing for ISV and developer relations for IBM.

"IBM sales will showcase the portfolio of third-party applications and specialized IBM portals will let potential customers search for ISVs in their area of interest, Hebner said.

Joseph Schwartz, vice president of product marketing for Itemfield, a San Mateo, Calif. ISV specializing in insurance applications, is bullish. Itemfield develops software that plugs into IBM's WebSphere business-integration platform to transform and translate myriad data formats used in the insurance industry.

"We're a realtime transactional integration software suite. We provide visual tools that let IT people without a lot of [programming] skills define transformation involving anything from unstructured information, data in Office files, PDFs etc., all the way to heritage data structures," he said.

The IBM relationship, he added, provides his company with a "tremendous channel opportunity."

"We can leverage the IBM sales force and customer base as part of our 'go-to-markets'," Schwartz told CRN. Generally, he said the PartnerWorld programs offer a well organized way to take advantage of perks from joint marketing collateral to joint sales engagements in major accounts.

Both IBM and Oracle appear to hope that ISV alliances will help them penetrate the SMB market, which is a stretch from their enterprise roots. Microsoft already plays well in SMBs with its SQL Server database and other offerings, observers said.

Skeptics note, however, that the ISV focus may distract from other key partners in this SMB push. It is increasingly difficult, for example, to pry VAR reference names from either IBM or Oracle.