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Oracle Corp.’s determination to acquire PeopleSoft Corp. may unexpectedly boost the fortunes of Lawson Software Inc. and its partners.

To acquire PeopleSoft, Oracle must first convince regulators that there’s healthy competition in the applications market. Toward that end, Oracle has repeatedly stated that smaller software firms—particularly Lawson—ensure continued alternatives in the business applications sector. The Wall Street Journal noted Oracle’s emphasis on Lawson a few days ago – just in time for Lawson’s annual partner and customer conference, slated for April 25-28 in Atlanta.

Lawson ($344.3 million in annual revenue) is tiny compared to Oracle ($9.5 billion) and its massive consulting team. Yet many of Lawson’s partners appear to be thriving. Just ask netASPx, an application service provider that specializes in hosting Lawson’s software for customers. The Herndon, Va.-based ASP recently won a contract to manage finance, accounting, procurement and HR applications for Grocers Supply Co., a Houston-based food wholesaler.

The longer Oracle pursues PeopleSoft, the more Lawson and its partners will surely benefit from the media spotlight.

Deal 2–No Time to Reboot

Deal 2—No Time to Reboot
Another ASP, NetSuite Inc. of San Mateo, Calif., is attempting to stand out from the competition by guaranteeing its customers 99.5 percent uptime. If NetSuite fails to meet that metric during a given month, customers will receive their money back for the period, the ASP says.

Tempting, but – contrary to other published reports – hardly unique.

Qwest Communications International Inc. offered a 99.5 percent uptime guarantee for its managed hosting operations as far back as 2001. Despite the guarantee, Qwest’s CyberSolutions data centers didn’t attract much business and were sold to Corio in 2002.

Deal 3–Best Defense?

Deal 3—Best Defense?
Sometimes, very small deals can generate big applause on Wall Street. Identix Inc., for instance, won a tiny $1 million contract with the Department of Defense earlier this month and shares in the company immediately surged nearly 30 percent.

The deal calls for the DoD to embrace Identix’s facial recognition technology. Investors kept close tabs on Identix and other biometrics companies shortly after 9-11.

In theory, the government was willing to pay any price to bolster homeland security. Yet Identix hasn’t prospered. For the six months ended Dec. 31 2003, Identix’s revenue slid 13 percent to $41.3 million.

Deal 4–Secret Agents Save the Day

Deal 4—Secret Agents Save the Day
Looking for the next opportunity in IT security? Perhaps Cisco Security Agents (CSAs) are worth exploring. I spent portions of March researching a solution provider that’s deploying CSA for a major real estate firm in Los Angeles. Now there’s word that Avnet Enterprise Solutions has launched an intrusion prevention starter kit based on CSA. The starter kit (starting at $6000 or so) helps customers to evaluate and develop security strategies for their enterprise infrastructures.

Empty marketing hype? You make the call. Visit Avenet’s network solutions web site, then let me know what you think of Avnet’s starter kit.

About Contract Watch: Each week, this column examines customer engagements that are stirring the channel, and the solutions providers behind them. Our goal is to strip away the hype and tell you what’s really selling—and what isn’t—in today’s IT marketplace. Send your tips to my e-mail address below.

Joseph C. Panettieri has covered Silicon Valley since 1992. He is editorial director of the New York Institute of Technology . Write to him at