IBM Woos Frustrated Sun Channel Partners from Oracle

By Steve Wexler  |  Print this article Print

It's been a difficult nine months for Sun's channel as it waited for the Oracle acquisition to be finalized, a period when Sun experienced a huge drop in its server business, making it an ideal hunting ground for IBM.

LAS VEGAS—IBM has been chasing after disaffected Sun channel partners for several years, but it wasn't until Oracle agreed to buy the beleaguered company last April and the European Union held up the pending deal for nine months that Big Blue cranked up the pressure.

This week's IBM Pulse 2010 conference is primarily targeted at Tivoli partners, but Sandy Carter, vice president of IBM Software Group Business Partners, says it's also of interest to Sun partners, "especially with all the comments [Oracle CEO] Larry Ellison made about going direct. I'm getting a lot of contacts from Sun partners."

IBM was one of the companies supposedly in the race to acquire Sun, but when the dust settled, it was software powerhouse Oracle that shelled out $7.4 billion for Sun. In his parting blog to staff, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz used the first letter in the first seven paragraphs to tell them to "B-E-A-T-I-B-M." Not to be outdone, Oracle's Ellison greeted his new channel by saying they would take the top 4,000 Sun accounts direct.

The last nine months have been exceptionally difficult for Sun and its channel, especially for its main business, servers. While server shipments dropped 17.1 percent in the third quarter, and revenues fell 15.5 percent, only Sun failed to register sequential growth among the top five vendors. Gartner puts its revenue decline at more than double its closest competitor, falling 32.3 percent compared with HP's 15.1 percent decline, while IBM only dropped 12.3 percent.

On the other hand, IBM held on to its top spot in the server market, barely, with 31.7 percent revenue share, fueled by growth in the x86 and Unix segments. In Sun's home turf, IBM added 4.5 percent Unix market share, according to Gartner, recording its fifth consecutive quarter as the dominant vendor, with 40.9 percent of the revenue.

"What we've been hearing now for months is their [Sun's channel partners'] frustration." Carter says they are very worried because of the direction Oracle is going and the way it treats its partners.

By last September IBM had contacted 200 Sun resellers and ISVs, reaching out to more than 100 of Sun's largest resellers, and more than 90 percent of them are "seeking a closer relationship" with IBM. One-third of those had no previous relationship with IBM. Carter adds that 70 percent of Sun's 100 largest ISVs are now either porting their software to IBM platforms or developing marketing plans to do so.

IBM has a lot to offer Sun—and Oracle—partners and customers, says Carter. In addition to the 40 global solution centers, there is a variety of selling and training classes available, as well as the just launched Software Value Plus Program, which features midmarket sales leads valued below $50,000; new cloud computing certification; and direct access to more than 130 industry training sessions online and in local markets globally.

Plus there's a lot more to come, and soon, says Carter.


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