Salesforce.com expands integration capabilities

The company has announced an out-of-the-box set of links so its apps can tie into Oracle's E-Business Suite 11i

Looking to cut the costs as well as the complexity of linking back-end ERP applications to its front-end CRM offerings, Salesforce.com is rolling out new integration programs.

This week, the provider of hosted customer relationship management software announced an out-of-the-box set of links for its applications to tie into Oracle's E-Business Suite 11i. It also unveiled new messaging technology and a program to encourage independent software vendors to provide integration tools.

Key to the vendor's initiative is the rollout of the ApexConnect family of integration products, which will be available through Salesforce.com's AppExchange applications marketplace. The ApexConnect tools were all built using a common code base and on a single infrastructure that is centrally maintained.

Salesforce.com customers looking to create coordinated business processes can tap into the ApexConnect offerings for certified plug-and-play integration applications from 25 partners, according to Ariel Kelman, senior director of platform product marketing at Salesforce.com. The tools are available now and are free to current Salesforce.com customers.

The tools will also provide integration to allow the Salesforce.com CRM software to share customer-related data with Oracle's E-Business Suite 11i, said Kelman. The connectors, called ConnectOracle, will allow for a bidirectional flow of data between the application sets to ensure that information is synchronized. Salesforce.com already offers similar hooks to SAP R/3.

ConnectOracle will be available in early 2007 and cost US$12,000 annually for Salesforce.com Enterprise and Unlimited Edition customers. Currently, there are no plans for integration with Oracle's PeopleSoft Enterprise business applications.

Kelman also said there would be a new messaging function in the Apex platform called ConnectOut. This tool will allow the Salesforce.com applications to automatically send out notifications to external third-party business and middleware applications to enable complete workflows. The ConnectOut tool will be offered as part of Salesforce.com's standard winter 2007 release.

A couple of Salesforce.com customers were enthusiastic about the ApexConnect announcements. Joe Graves, IT director at Stratus Technologies, said the integration efforts will expand the AppExchange program and help generate a wider set of ideas among developers. Stratus, which makes fault-tolerant servers, runs Saleforce.com's applications as part of its lead-generation and sales processes.

Graves noted that AppExchange requires a buyer to deal with individual software developers -- not just Salesforce.com. And that is a downside, he said.

While Stratus currently uses Oracle 10.7 ERP software and is upgrading to 11i, it already has a custom-built application programming interface connecting Oracle to Salesforce.com. It works so well, said Graves, that there would have to be a special reason to purchase ConnectOracle.

This initiative will permit broad integration with legacy and third-party applications, said Denis Pombriant, analyst at consultancy Beagle Research Group. Not only will it deliver native connectors to SAP and Oracle, but also to middleware platforms and applications crafted with Salesforce.com's own development tools.

Salesforce.com now has a fully developed integration strategy and customers need not purchase standard connection tools any longer to solve integration problems, said Pombriant.

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