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Oracle Corp.’s newest plans for a channel foray and accompanying mid-market push have observers wondering whether the software giant will truly overcome its spotty past with partners.

Oracle last week disclosed arrangements with Avnet Inc., Ingram Micro Inc. and Tech Data Corp. that are intended to cultivate a small and midsize business channel. Such partnerships look good on paper, but the true test lies in execution. A number of channel alliances turn out to be little more than a press release and a handshake.

But Nasir Cochinwala, senior vice president of professional services at NaviSite Inc., said he believes Oracle’s interest in working with partners is genuine. According to Cochinwala, two factors push Oracle in the partner direction: its emphasis on mid-market customers and focus on such vertical markets as retail.

“From that perspective, they have embraced working with the partners more so than ever before,” he said.

Cochinwala comes to that conclusion from an interesting viewpoint. Prior to jointing NaviSite, an application outsourcing and professional services vendor, he was regional vice president of Oracle’s West Coast consulting practice.

Oracle Consulting, the company’s professional services arm, has been a point of contention over the years for integrators. The obvious concern was that Oracle would be as likely to wrest implementation work from solution providers as to partner with them. However, Cochinwala said Oracle Consulting’s growth rate slowed considerably while he was at the company.

“Oracle has made a conscious effort to have 50 percent of all the deals, if not more, go with the partners,” he said.

Cochinwala said Oracle’s consulting organization will remain an area of focus at the company, but added that “we will see more and more partnering happening with them.”

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NaviSite, meanwhile, recently expanded its relationship with Oracle. The company had a PeopleSoft application hosting business before Oracle acquired PeopleSoft. NaviSite now hosts Oracle applications as well as Siebel Systems wares. Oracle’s acquisition of Siebel is expected to close early next year.

NaviSite and Oracle appear on a similar path when it comes to market segmentation. NaviSite aims to bring applications outsourcing to mid-sized companies and divisions of large companies. Oracle, of course, has set its sights on the middle market. NaviSite targets such verticals as retail, high-tech, health care and financial services—a spread that seems to fit nicely with Oracle’s vertical orientation.

Cochinwala said NaviSite’s professional services side has developed Oracle-centric service offerings. A compliance service, for example, advises customers on which Oracle modules, features and integration points to implement to meet regulatory compliance requirements. A “project health check” service provides a third-party review of Oracle implementations, according to NaviSite.

Such services are a start toward making an alliance tangible. If Oracle meets such efforts halfway, the company’s renewed channel effort might prove more than a theoretical possibility.