Siebel touts out-of-the-box integration

Siebel Systems announced its Universal Application Network on Monday, promising fast, simple and affordable integration of business applications. The move counters the "no need for integration, it all works together" sales pitch from rivals SAP and Oracle.

System integrators and integration server vendors, including IBM Corp., Accenture Ltd., Tibco Software Inc. and webMethods Inc., are lining up behind Siebel to promote the Universal Application Network, which comprises an integration server that connects applications and a set of prepackaged business processes that will make Siebel's software work with, for example, an SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) application, Siebel said.

"We're squarely addressing the customer's number one problem, integrating applications. This is not a Siebel-centric solution, but we are partnering with five integration providers who will provide the connectivity, platforms and the capability to run the business processes," said Bharath Kadaba, vice president of application network for Siebel in San Mateo, California.

"This is validation of the integration market, integration is critical for CRM and it is not time consuming, nor expensive," said Aditya Shivram, director of product marketing for Tibco, a Palo Alto, California, integration server vendor.

Siebel, together with system integrator partners, is currently building a library of industry-specific business processes and business process flows. The business processes and the flows in the library, which use Web standards such as XML (Extensible Markup Language), are customized, extensible and upgradable and can be used and re-used independent of both the underlying applications and the integration server, Siebel said.

An example of a business process is customer creation or quote to order. A business process flow orchestrates a sequence of steps across multiple applications.

"This will lower the cost of installation and deployment and reduce the cost of maintenance over time," said Phillip Merrick, chief executive of integration server vendor webMethods in Fairfax, Virginia. "The alternative is to do handcoded point-to-point integration between applications, which is very costly. Integration is typically the highest cost for implementing an application such as CRM."

Also part of the Universal Application Network is a business process design tool for developing and configuring business processes and business process flows. Using the business process flow modeler, a business analyst can describe business processes in an abstract way before an application developer defines the actual process, Siebel said.

Integration server vendors including IBM, webMethods Inc. and Tibco are updating their products for the Universal Application Network. The server software will execute the business processes, Siebel said.

Tibco already has prepackaged integration offerings for the energy industry, one of the vertical markets it is specialized in, and more standard integration products are on the way, said Shivram.

The first version of Siebel's business process library will be available mid-2002. All the libraries will be vertically focused and will target the most popular applications within a vertical, according to Kadaba. Siebel's most important verticals include the communication, media, energy, and finance sectors, he added.

No details were available on pricing.

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