In the meantime, partners are painting different pictures of what they think of the merger and of how Oracle is handling partner relations. For USinternetworking Inc. (USi), the largest enterprise ASP and independent Oracle Managed Service Provider, Oracle is doing a "nice job of communicating, and we feel positive about them moving forward to dispel some of the uncertainty around this merger over the past 18 months," said Larry Abramson, senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at USi. That uncertainty flows from USis customer base, Abramson said, and centers on continuing support for productsa subject that Oracle changed its tune on over the course of the takeover."Especially early and through the midpoint of the merger process, there was a lot of concern about that, and I think rightfully so," Abramson said."I think since that point in time, whenever that happened, Oracle has done an exceptional job articulating and communicating a support strategy, and a strategy for the product set and maintenance and next series of releases." Other issues for partners include co-marketing and co-sales efforts, as well as channel conflict. "Every partner wants to make sure they have some degree of exclusivity or control over what theyre doing, and they want to make sure the vendor is doing something to help lead generation or co-marketing in some way," Enterprise Applications Consultings Greenbaum said. As far as channel rationalization goes, there must be a comprehensive market/lead-generation/sales strategy that also addresses the question of whom partners should talk to within Oracle, how they should go to market, and where their sales generations are going, Greenbaum said. PeopleSoft partners will have to be blended into the Oracle sales model, with overlap winnowed out. Click here to read about how PeopleSoft users are bearing the brunt of the merger. In the meantime, surviving partners will have to deal with one inescapable hardship: There will be fewer midlevel managers who handle partners. Oracle on Friday announced layoffs of 5,000 people, with some of the layoffs eating away at the partner programs. "Thats the kind of redundancy youd want to eliminate from the get-go," Greenbaum said. Other partners say, off the record, that Oracle has been stingy in communicating. Thats not surprising, however, given that partner relations arent a top priority for the company at this early point, Greenbaum said. "Partner relations are not in the top 3" priorities for Oracle, he said. "Maybe in the top 10. Im not surprised a lot of partners feel theyre in the dark right now. Thats not indicative of any deliberate neglect, as opposed to prioritization on the part of Oracle. "A month from now, if theyre still in the dark, we can point to Oracle and say, Why arent you dealing with these people? Theyre essential to the success of the merger." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest database news, reviews and analysis.