Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ:ORCL) evangelized six core opportunities last week during an analyst gathering in Silicon Valley: Engineered systems, cloud computing, social, mobile, customer experience and Big Data/Analytics. But two specific topics kept popping into The VAR Guy's head: The recently launched SPARC T5 servers, and Oracle's quest to name a new global channel chief.

Let's start with the technology. Oracle's SPARC T5 and M5 servers, launched in March 2013, remain top-of-mind for VP Ravi Pendekanti. The T5 and M5 systems join Oracle's entry-level SPARC T4 servers to complete the company's current SPARC family, spanning entry-level, midrange and high-end. Oracle claims the SPARC servers, running Solaris, are the world's best platforms for enterprise computing. 

Channel partners can participate in a SPARC T5 Demo Equipment Program, while also pursuing specializations for the new servers. 

According to Pendekanti, the T5 essentially offers twice the performance of the T4. "When you layer in the things we've done with I/O for application performance, plus the memory improvements, it's really five-times the performance," he adds.  

Oracle's application, database and middleware are also more tightly integrated, which also contributes to the performance boost, he adds.

Pendekanti predicts the T5 systems will have broad appeal for customers that need online transaction processing (OLTP) and high-end ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) performance. "Any parters with T4 credentials can automatically start selling T5 systems," he adds.

Still, some critics wonder if Oracle can drive profitable RISC processor growth, especially when many customers are embracing x86 servers or shifting their IT budgets to cloud-based applications. Oracle's response has been consistent. President Mark Hurd reiterated that Oracle's buyout of Sun, which occurred three years ago, has been the most successful M&A deal in Oracle's history. Hurd may a similar statement back in January 2013, describing how Oracle unlocked value from the deal.

Channel Partner Team

Meanwhile, Oracle's channel partner team continues to march forward following the exit of Channel Chief Judson Althoff, who joined Microsoft a few weeks ago.

Oracle has a deep channel bench, and President Mark Hurd told The VAR Guy last week that the key challenge remains unchanged: Oracle and its channel partners must have clear swimming lanes in the market. Hurd said many IT vendors sell their best products direct and send their worst products through the SMB channel. In stark contrast, Hurd wants Oracle partners to sell the company's entire stack.

Oracle has not publicly commented on the search for Althoff's successor but it sounds like it's business as usual on the channel team. Group VP Lydia Smyers said the Oracle pipeline (including T5 systems and the second-generation Oracle Database Appliance) remains strong for partners. The big area of focus remains training and certification within the OPN (Oracle PartnerNetwork) specialized program.

Also, Oracle has quietly rolled out a cloud partner program that allows VARs to control end-customer pricing and billing (stay tuned for details on The VAR Guy's sister site, Talkin' Cloud).

So what's next? Keep an eye on June 2013. That's when Oracle will likely host its channel partner kick-off rally for fiscal year 2014. The VAR Guy suspects Oracle will announce a new global channel chief at that time.