New Oracle Partner Program Takes a Cue from Rival

NEWS ANALYSIS: While Oracle continues to scorn rival, the way it’s structuring its Sales and Marketing Cloud Service partner program bears a strong resemblance to Salesforce’s AppExchange.

SAN FRANCISCO — Oracle CEO Larry Ellison doesn’t pass up an opportunity to put down software rival, especially at his company’s OpenWorld conference here Oct. 1 to 4. However, it looks like Oracle borrowed some ideas from its main software as a service competitor in building a new partner ecosystem.

At the conference, Oracle announced that more than 100 independent software vendors (ISVs) can sell their applications for use within the Oracle Sales and Marketing Cloud Service. The business model resembles Salesforce’s AppExchange where third-party software vendors can sell their apps integrated with Salesforce apps on its software as a service platform.

“I think it’s about chasing Salesforce and its AppExchange model,” said Rob Vandenberg, president and CEO of Lingotek, a language translation provider and one of the 100 new Oracle ISV partners.

Vandenberg applauds Oracle for the fact that it “has found religion … has acquiesced and is moving to the cloud, which all of their customers want.”

Like other legacy on-premise enterprise software vendors, Oracle resisted the move to cloud-delivered software as epitomized by the Salesforce business model, but has now embraced cloud computing and promoted a broad suite of enterprise apps available in its cloud portfolio.

But Oracle has gone further to match Salesforce in creating a rich partner ecosystem to support vendors like Lingotek. It is not how Oracle has operated in the past.

“[Oracle’s approach] was ‘follow the big shark around—Oracle—and you can take some scraps if you want.’ Now it’s much more inclusive,” Vandenberg said.

A partner program is inclusive by necessity, he continued, because of the nature of cloud delivered software. The one major knock against software as a service (SaaS) as provided by companies like Salesforce is that it is a single software application, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, for instance, designed one way and accessed online by many. With SaaS, customers are unable to customize the software for their specific needs, their industry, their business model, or to give themselves an edge over competitors.

Creating a partner ecosystem as Salesforce, and now Oracle, have done enables that customization, said Vandenberg.

“Salesforce pioneered the ability to deliver a core application, in Salesforce’s case CRM, and allow for customization via third-party apps,” he said.

Lingotek delivers online content translation three ways, he said. It offers machine-based translation similar to services such as Google Translate and Microsoft Translator, but also professional translation services for situations where the translation must be accurate for documents such as contracts, or customer support Website pages where an error could prevent a customer from accurately fixing a problem with a product.

The third type adopts a crowd-sourcing model where contributors from all over the world can contribute to a translation because they recognize subtle nuances or colloquialisms in one language that may not be easily translated to another.

Being a part of Oracle’s partner program gives Lingotek an opportunity to sell to Oracle’s customers, many of which are global and in need of translation services. Lingotek, for instance, can be integrated into an Oracle customer’s content management system, Vandenberg said. As the economy becomes increasingly global, translation services become business-critical.

“You’re actually having conversations about real business issues,” said Vandenberg. “The ability to communicate across languages is really critical when you have multinational corporations doing business across languages.”

Ellison didn’t disappoint when the opportunity arose to compare Oracle with Salesforce. In discussing a wide array of enterprise apps available in the cloud from Oracle, he noted that customers can move their apps from the Oracle public cloud to an Oracle-created private cloud or to an on-premise installation as they choose.

“We’re the only cloud application company that gives you a choice of deployment,” Ellison said. “If you run, it runs in one place on the planet Earth and that’s in the Salesforce public cloud.”

Ellison also touted as an industry first the fact that Oracle is introducing a Social Relationship Management Platform that delivers social media capabilities to an enterprise, not as a separate application, but as a platform, meaning that the whole range of Oracle business apps will have some social capabilities included.