Reducing the Value of Solution Providers Through Engineering?
Truth be told, complexity is good for VARs and solution providers. Attempting to integrate a simple web application into today’s IT environment requires an extensive breadth of knowledge – from the hardware, operating system or virtualization platforms, to database, network configurations, and proxies. This expertise commands solid margins, and has become the core value proposition for many channel partners. Now here’s the twist…
… It was no great surprise that after reading Oracle’s application-to-disk strategy that my first thought was that we’ve just removed the value of our solution providers, and engineered their expertise into our various solution stacks. Here’s an excerpt:
“Oracle plans to accelerate its R&D investments to optimize technologies across the technology stack and leverage development innovations that can only be delivered by a company that provides full stack, hardware and software solutions. These innovations are expected to deliver significant customer benefits including reducing the complexity of buying, implementing, and managing systems. Customers will benefit as their system performance, reliability, and security go up while systems integration and management costs go down.”
Of course, knee-jerk reactions are usually wrong. These solutions still need to be integrated into a customer’s IT environment, and these connection points are the home to high margin partner services.
In addition, given the unique requirements and configurations dictated by the customer, these solutions still require a great deal of field-based optimization to realize their full value. If Oracle can reduce most of the issues that impact installation, stability, and management through integration, it will accelerate the optimization process for solution providers, allowing them to focus on tuning the solution metrics that matter most to customers, like price/performance or performance/watt.
The primary benefit to solution providers in developing optimization expertise is the expanded market opportunity. The ability to generate superior system metrics provides significant price protection around solution sales, and it also creates a viable services offering that can be targeted at both installed base and competitive accounts.
An optimization example that I use frequently is the benchmark result from Siebel CRM Release 8.0 on Sun hardware, specifically the Sun SPARC Enterprise T5440 server running Oracle Solaris. Tuning and optimization resulted in capacity, price/performance, space, and power metrics that were far, far superior to the competition. Note that the point is not that Siebel runs best on Sun hardware, but that optimization and tuning, aided by an integrated stack, delivers a solution that is competitively superior on metrics that are relevant to the customer.
Developing the right optimization skills require careful planning, and will depend on a partner’s existing skill set, the overall market opportunity, and the resources and training available to develop the required expertise. For Oracle partners, the Oracle PartnerNetwork Specializations provide a structured approach to core optimization skills development. For example, depending on a partner’s specific area of expertise:
- Sun SPARC Enterprise T-Series (CMT) Specialization when the target application is multi-threaded. This also includes Oracle VM Server for SPARC (formerly Sun Logical Domains), which adds virtualization capabilities to the T-Series servers.
- Oracle Solaris, including DTrace, a dynamic troubleshooting and analysis tool
- Oracle Database 11g, and optionally, the Oracle Database Performance Tuning Specialization.
Overall, the move by Oracle to reduce implementation headaches and risk creates a significant opportunity for solution providers to provide a higher level of value-added services to customers. Those that make the transition will not only find a broader, richer set of opportunities, but also help customers boost their overall datacenter efficiency.
John Shell is the Director of Servers and Storage Enablement at Oracle. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of The VAR Guy’s annual sponsorship.