When it comes to Sun Microsystems' technology, Oracle's top partner priority is to promote Sun servers and storage. But if you listen closely to Oracle Channel Chief Judson Althoff, you'll discover that he's already contemplating channel partner strategies for Sun's MySQL, Java and OpenOffice offerings. Here's the scoop.

During an interview at Oracle's headquarters on April 15 (2010), Althoff described why Oracle partners need to focus on Sun's server and storage offerings. Those areas are the highest-revenue, highest-profit Sun opportunities over the near-term, Althoff said.

But of course, The VAR Guy had to probe a bit about Oracle's channel commitment to open source offerings like the MySQL database and OpenOffice software suite. Plus, what are Oracle's partner plans for Java?

Althoff covered all three technologies at length during the conversation. He never stumbled for words, he mentioned some of Sun's MySQL partner history and he described key niches where OpenOffice may find a home in specific countries.

In short: Despite some concerns about Oracle within the open source industry, it's clear that Althoff is taking a serious look at how the Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) Specialized partner program can potentially promote MySQL and OpenOffice to solutions providers.

MySQL Moves

Let's start with MySQL. Under Sun, MySQL had a Mecca partner program. It landed near the top of The VAR Guy's 2009 Open Source 50 report -- which tracks the most promising open source partner programs. But since that time, Sun had gone mostly quiet with its MySQL channel strategy.

Fast forward to Oracle's takeover of Sun, and Althoff see new opportunities for MySQL partners. "Sun had the Mecca partner program [for MySQL]," Althoff recalls. "We'll bring that into the OPN Specialized partner program, and it will have a specialization within our partner program."

When? Althoff isn't ready to discuss exact timing because the top priority remains training Oracle partners to sell and support Sun's servers and storage solutions. But on the MySQL front, Althoff sees opportunities to promote MySQL into the embedded market.

"MySQL is a great embedded database for lighter-weight applications that don't require the hardening and scalability that Oracle's enterprise database provodes today," said Althoff. "Partners need to envision how their applications will grow over time. If it's a small environment with fewer users and less mission critical, that's MySQL. But it's going run on a grid as part of a mass deployment, that's Oracle."

Read between the lines, and Oracle plans to position MySQL against Microsoft's SQL Server. "We absolutely plan to do that," said Althoff. "That will be part of the positioning."

Java and OpenOffice Moves

Even before Oracle acquired Sun, Oracle was betting heavily on Java. "Java is the core of everything we do today," said Althoff. "So we will heavily push Java across the product base. And Java will play in our AIA specialization."

AIA is short for Oracle's Application Integration Architecture, a key part of Oracle's partner program.

Meanwhile, Althoff even sees opportunities for Oracle partners to promote Sun Ray thin clients and OpenOffice to BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China). "When you're a VAR that caters to governments in BRIC countries, you hear about requirements to bid open source and open standard solutions," said Althoff. That's where OpenOffice and Sun's thin clients will play a key role, he added.

Remaining Questions

Althoff's comments arrive a few weeks after Oracle offered an upbeat analysis on the Sun takeover so far.

Still, rivals such as IBM are pursuing Sun's channel partners. And some skeptics still wonder why Larry Ellison decided to get into the hardware business -- especially a proprietary hardware business involving Sun's SPARC chips.

Despite such debate, Althoff didn't dance around any questions yesterday. Nor did he scramble for answers. It's clear that Althoff has spent considerable time analyzing Sun's entire product portfolio, and potential opportunities for Oracle partners. Near term, Sun servers and storage are the top priorities for Oracle's channel team. And Java is already well-established across Oracle's code base.

Longer term, Althoff has plans for MySQL and OpenOffice. But those will remain secondary priorities until Oracle has executed on its server and storage strategies.

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