Sun, CA Take CRM Plunge

If the surest way to know if a technology trend is getting hot is by who embraces it, CRM (customer relationship management) is hot, gaining the backing this week of two more industry heavyweights, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Computer Associates International Inc.

Islandia, N.Y.-based CA plans to join the fray with an initiative it will unveil in two weeks at the CRM Expo in San Francisco that will see a new crop of products blended with existing offerings from the company.

"CRM has been evolving from the sales-force automation world, help desk, and call centers to more collaborative CRM," said CA Senior Vice President Jacob Lamm. "The industry has moved now toward a more analytical area -- data mining, real-time analysis, one-to-one marketing -- and we have been in the analytical space for a long time. CRM is shifting to what our strength is."

But if the CRM market has evolved to CA's strengths, the software maker also has moved to meet the market. Last month CA forged a partnership with wireless and Web-based CRM vendor eWare Ltd. to offer the Dublin, Ireland, company's sales and marketing module in CA's suite, under the brand name "Sales and Marketing."

Likewise, Sun is also reaching out to partners. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company this week inked a deal with CRM vendor E.piphany Inc. that will see the two companies join on product development, sales, and marketing initiatives. San Mateo, Calif.-based E.piphany will leverage Sun's worldwide sales and marketing organization to jointly promote E.piphany's CRM solutions to customers.

"What E.piphany and Sun are trying to accomplish in the marketplace is [to] develop a holistic approach to what Fortune 1000 is demanding for CRM solutions," E.piphany CEO Roger Siboni said this week. "What they're demanding are ... scalable systems, massively scalable systems that can drive real-time interaction in a secure way. But [customers] are also requiring applications that deliver every aspect of customer analytics, marketing, and sales and service in a suite of real-time applications that they can drive to their enterprises," he said.

E.piphany recently said it would add wireless support to its E.5 applications package, which gives users an array of "touch points," including fax, desktop, telephony, and, soon, e-mail, chat, and wireless.

"E.piphany is doing all it can to appear to be a player in the big leagues," said Sam Clark, a senior research analyst at Meta Group Inc., in Burlingame, Calif. "You can't beat this kind of hardware partnership [with Sun] for satisfying that equation."

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