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Oracle is taking its partner enablement
initiative a step further with the announcement of about 50 different
specializations for its channel partners, called Oracle PartnerNetwork
Specialized.

The goal? To create better ways for partners to differentiate themselves and to
help end customers find highly skilled channel partners. Partners will find
specializations available to them in any of an number of technology areas and
vertical industries.

Oracle is billing this as the biggest change to its partner program in 10
years, a change introduced by Judson Althoff, who was promoted
to the Oracle channel chief role
after two longtime Oracle channel
leaders departed in 2008.

"Specialization will represent a depth of skill," Althoff, senior
vice president of worldwide alliances and channels, tells Channel Insider.
"The design goal of this program is to better accommodate all different
types of partners in our ecosystem at the same time we are creating a system to
help them better differentiate themselves."

According to an Oracle news release Oct. 12, "Partners achieve Specialization
in specific areas through competency, business results, expertise and proven
success."

As part of the changes, Oracle will make its "remarketer" partner level
an official part of the channel partner program, but without establishing any
new fees or contracts. Althoff estimates that about 2,000 have taken advantage
of the remarketer program in the past year—selling Oracle technologies without
paying the fees required to be part of the company’s channel partner program.

As for the new specializations, partners will be able to declare a certain
specialization if they believe they have the expertise to meet the criteria.
Then they will have a 12-month grace period in which to pass the requisite
third-party accredited exams, which will be offered at cost, says Althoff.

"We’ve spent a lot of time profiling [our] existing partner base as well
as defining a transition plan that makes this easy," Althoff says.
"We wanted the program as a design element to represent rigor and
integrity [when it comes] to having a competency in a given area, but not to
make it so hard for partners to leverage their existing investments."

Oracle launched the OPN Specialized program at its Oracle OpenWorld event held
Oct. 12 to 14 in San Francisco, with about 30 specializations already available
out of the box, and Althoff says about 50 will be available by the end of May
2010.

According to the news release: "OPN Specialized will feature four partner
levels: Oracle Remarketer, Silver, Gold and Platinum." A complete list of
the specialization areas is available
here.
 

Oracle says the program will also offer a set of new tools, "including a
new partner ordering portal, an improved enablement environment for training, a
new marketing events calendar and an enhanced Solutions Catalog."

Oracle says the OPN Specialized structure will be available Dec. 1, but partners
that migrate early will receive a discounted membership. The new program is "built
on the foundation of Oracle
Enablement 2.0
training and support," first announced over a year
ago.