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Reshuffling its North American sales organization is Oracle’s latest bid in an ongoing campaign to file down the teeth of its infamously carnivorous sales force. The campaign has taken on new urgency as the database giant seeks to digest its recent acquisitions of PeopleSoft and Retek without scaring off customers or partners.

To wit, the Redwood Shores, Calif., company reportedly has plugged Ted Bereswill, former director of the eastern region of Oracle Corp.’s North American sales, into a position as leader of the vendor’s entire North American technology sales operation.

Bereswill takes over the western region from Dan Stoks, who reportedly will head up Retek Global Sales and Consulting.

Finally, Oracle has reportedly promoted John Boucher to become senior vice president of North American commercial applications.

Oracle executive vice president Keith Block reportedly disclosed internally that the shakeup will likely be announced at Oracle’s annual sales event this week in Las Vegas.

The personnel moves were disclosed internally within documents viewed by CRN. Oracle did not respond to requests for comment on the news reports.

The battle for Oracle is to make over the sales force’s long-held reputation of being tough to work with. “Their sales people are known for being very arrogant, in general,” said Tony Baer, an analyst for onStrategies.

“‘Oracle partner’ was considered for a long time to be an oxymoron. … And even though I’m sure they have good vertical people, it’s not known for being very [good at selling into vertical markets].”

The attempts to change predate Oracle’s acquisition of PeopleSoft, finalized in January, and its acquisition of retail applications vendor Retek, a company Oracle took control of in April.

For example, in July 2004, Oracle issued the company’s first-ever set of guidelines to instruct its sales staff in North America on how to play nice with partners, including channels, ISVs, resellers, integrators and VARs.

The simplified set of six guiding principles instructed sales staff to, among other things, identify and work with partners in accounts and to respect a given partner’s “position and value-add” in those accounts.

In spite of such actions, the word on the street is that Oracle’s biggest challenge following the epic swallowing of PeopleSoft Inc. still has been to repair its relationship with the channel.

Analysts and consultants say Oracle’s acquisitions have certainly upped the ante, as the database giant battles IBM and Microsoft Corp. for database sales and plays second fiddle to SAP AG in enterprise applications.

“I’ve been getting, over the transom, background noise that Oracle is trying to be more nice nowadays,” Baer said. “After swallowing PeopleSoft, they realized they can’t act the same as they’ve always acted and keep PeopleSoft customers.

“This dates back to when [Oracle CEO Larry Ellison] let out the opening shot: ‘Oh, we just wanted to take them out of the market,’ to [Oracle’s current stance of] saying they’ll support PeopleSoft for 10 years or whatever.”

Wherever Oracle is a runner-up to SAP in enterprise applications sales, that means Oracle has to be more customer-centric, Baer said.

An attitude adjustment on dual core?

One thing’s for sure: The fact that Oracle has tenaciously clung to its decision to charge for two CPUs on dual-core chips isn’t helping to endear the company in sales engagements. “It didn’t make our sales people happy at all,” said John Norman, a consultant at Advanced Systems Group, a systems integrator.

What’s particularly problematic for Oracle is that its attitude toward dual core suffers in contrast to that of competitors such as Microsoft, which loudly proclaimed its plan to stick to its per-processor software-licensing model when hardware containing dual-core and multicore processor technology for the Windows platform becomes available.

“The licensing has definitely been a big issue,” Norman said. “With many sales, the licenses for their software are more expensive than the hardware. That’s typical for high-end software.

“But the thing with the dual core, that’s definitely been a big issue,” he said. “A lot of customers are saying, ‘We’re going to be spending this much and buy a box of this size. We’re getting more speed and power with this, but that’s exactly what we’d have gotten with processors twice as fast, so we don’t see why the price doubled. They’re grumbling a lot.”

Oracle shops aren’t switching platforms because of that, Norman said, but the issue comes up when people look at upcoming installations, where they’re considering alternative platforms.

As it is, on about 90 percent of applications for which ASG consults, enterprises can’t use named-user or per-seat licensing because they’re connected to Web-based or portal applications, which makes CPU licensing a must.

“Whether your shop has 50 users or 5 million users, you still have to pay at least the minimum on CPU pricing, so not all our customers were happy with that,” Norman said. “Price and licensing are the main complaints. They’re happy with the technology.”

As it is, Oracle has been aggressively pushing its RAC (Real Application Clusters) technology for scalability and high availability, where commodity servers are strung together as needed to scale up, and customers pay as they go.

Even that scenario isn’t a guarantee of value, however. ASG has done analysis of pre-10g RAC and found that it adds complexity, being more difficult to manage than a regular Veritas Software Corp. cluster or a Sun Microsystems Inc. cluster, with one active system and a stand-by cold system.

“If you were doubling CPUs and doubling performance, it wouldn’t be so bad,” Norman said. But RAC entails a great deal of communication between systems, as they check to see what part of a file system is in use so they don’t step on it and corrupt data, for example.

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On a standard, single-box server with 64 CPUs, AGS found that about two to three CPUs were wasted on overhead. With RAC, that number jumped to seven or eight, Norman said.

“We see RAC as an availability solution,” he said. “If somebody loses a hard drive or the system goes down, all the processors are synced up and working, and it doesn’t miss a beat. Versus starting up a cold system that’s waiting, standing by.”

Oracle’s sales team has been heavily promoting RAC as a solution that solves more than standby issues, though, pushing it for both availability and scalability. Part of the reason could be the steep cost it adds to the price of Oracle technology, which Norman estimated at about $120,000 per processor.

“I think the reason is, they want to sell licenses and get the most CPUs running on Oracle as possible,” he said. “That wasn’t the best for our customers. We ran the numbers and decided it didn’t make sense for most of our customers to run RAC.”

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