For years Oracle has deftly used a blend of political skills and its growing influence in the enterprise marketplace to position Oracle Open World as the preeminent event for IT buyers and corporate executives, not to mention a long list of partners critical for its long-term success.
In fact the politics behind the massive conference, which is expected to draw more than 45,000 attendees to San Francisco this year, is rich in symbolism, and perhaps more important than what’s being said at OOW.
Like everything else that greases the wheels in business dealing, good politics begets power and OOW is no different. In its early days OOW, which began as a user forum until 1997 when it was taken over by Oracle, was a relatively small affair attracting a few thousand DBAs and developers to see the latest in Oracle’s database technology. Oracle held a separate event for its E-Business Suite applications customers called AppsWorld that was later folded into OOW after it bought PeopleSoft in 2005.
The more acquisitions Oracle makes, the bigger OOW gets. So has the prestige that Oracle accords to not just OOW calling it the biggest software event in the world, but also many technology companies that have shared the limelight through the years.
As Oracle has become arguably the world’s most powerful hardware and software company for the enterprise, OOW has also emerged as the arbiter of power and prestige within the Oracle ecosystem. The sponsorship program of OOW has 11 levels from the lowly media to Global, a new badge of honor created this year.
Not only does a top sponsorship connote one’s standing in the enterprise IT world, it also reinforces one’s status within the ecosystem. In other words, you are not really considered a top Oracle partner until you become a top OOW sponsor. If one’s standing slips in the OOW sponsorship pecking order, it goes without saying that trouble is brewing and it may be a good time to reevaluate one’s relationship with Oracle.
Two examples come to mind. The sour relationship between Oracle and HP, once a perennial presence in OOW, has gotten to the point that the latter has not been a top sponsor since 2010. HP does have a booth with a non-boldface listing in the show guide. Apparently boldface-listing goes to the top sponsors.
The same friction erupted last year when Salesforce.com, a top OOW sponsor that had to move at the last minute the venue of the presentation of its CEO Mark Benioff away from OOW to a nearby hotel. Essentially Oracle exerts total control over what could be seen or heard by OOW attendees.
This year the top status goes to Fujitsu, which for years has been one of Oracle’s key partners and this year is given the leading role as the Global Partner sponsor. Fujitsu, which has become one of Oracle’s biggest OEM partners, now resells hundreds of millions of dollars in Oracle databases and other products to its customers in Japan and elsewhere. In addition to its consulting business(also heavy on Oracle), Fujitsu has been working closely with Oracle to incorporate its technologies into its supercomputer and high-performance computing offerings.
The following table lists the top sponsors of OOW since its major expansion in 2006.
For the second year in a row, Deloitte is the marquee sponsor of OOW and in return for spending millions of dollars to plaster its name all over OOW and the concurrent Executive Edge, an invitation-only event for CIOs, CFOs and the likes, it has profited handsomely by building one of the biggest Oracle practices in the world with hundreds of millions of dollars in ERP implementations every year. By the way, Deloitte has been one of the first Oracle partners to invest heavily on implementations of Fusion Applications.
Another interesting development is the rise of Intel. In addition to continuing as a Diamond sponsor for the third year in a row earning it a keynote spot this year, it is also a major sponsor of a 90-city seminar series on Oracle Cloud, positioning its chip, networking gear and security products as the key enablers behind the data center of the future, which seems to be where most Oracle Exadata systems are being used these days.
Another set of new partners to this year’s top sponsorship are Arrow, Avnet and Tech Data, which are playing a pivotal role behind the growth of Oracle into new markets from resellers to emerging countries. Tech Data, for example, recently expanded its relationship with Oracle by distributing applications and hardware, in addition to database and middleware products, to customers around the world. Together the three mega-distributors could generate billions of dollars in sales for Oracle this year. Along with other resellers and distributors, they represent the building blocks of the new Oracle’s indirect sales arm responsible for more than 40% of its $38 billion in projected sales this year.
On the other hand, there are some that have failed to make the list this year. HP is not a top sponsor in 2012 or the year before. Dell was a Diamond sponsor last year, but this year it has fallen off the top sponsor list. Coincidentally Dell had a major presence at Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce last week, but that’s another story. By the way, Salesforce.com was a Grande sponsor in 2011. This year Netsuite seems to have taken its spot by becoming not just a Grande sponsor, but earning a session spot.
In summary, the politics behind OOW illustrates how one company can dictate the future of enterprise IT by simply inviting or disinviting certain partners to the biggest party in town.
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