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Siebel tackles application integration

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Siebel Systems Monday unveiled plans for a set of tools designed to ease the hassle of linking Siebel eBusiness applications with other enterprise software.

Due to be available this summer, the Universal Application Network is built around a set of 200 industry-specific "business processes" that Siebel is creating. Rather than being tied to a single application, these prepackaged software sequences cross multiple applications to access data needed to complete common business functions. A business process might cover creating a new customer record, for example, or advancing a sales transaction from the quote stage to order placement.

Siebel - which is the market leader in customer relationship management (CRM) software - is developing the business processes with some help from system integrators PwC Consulting, Accenture, IBM Global Services and KPMG Consulting.

Also contributing technology and expertise to the Universal Application Network effort are integration middleware vendors IBM, SeeBeyond, TIBCO Software, Vitria and webMethods. Siebel recruited these middleware vendors to supply the underlying integration platform for Universal Application Network, and the vendors have agreed to support the business processes specifications Siebel uses. The integration servers will execute the business processes, Siebel says.

All together, Universal Application Network consists of three major components: the library of business processes; tools to configure business processes; and the integration server for coordinating inter-application communication. The tools are based on Web services and XML standards.

Ultimately, the aim of Universal Application Network is to reduce the need for custom integration, allowing enterprises to quickly and affordably tie their CRM software to other applications, such as inventory, order management or financials.

Rather than creating point-to-point ties between all of their applications, companies can use Universal Application Network, with its middleware foundation, to take a more scalable approach to integration. Given the enormous number of applications that customers need to connect, point-to-point integration through APIs, for example, is not a feasible approach to enterprise-wide integration, says David Schmaier, executive vice president at Siebel.

For example, Marriott is connecting its Siebel applications with 73 other applications, Schmaier says. And General Motors is linking its Siebel products with 5,000 other applications, he says.

Indeed, integration among applications is key to a successful CRM rollout, experts say. Gartner analyst Joanne Correia says application integration is a key component for enabling e-business, CRM and supply chain management. It will be one of the most important IT challenges over the next five years, Correia says in a new report on the application integration market.

Siebel unveiled its plans for Universal Application Network at its European User Week 2002 conference, being held this week in Barcelona, Spain. The company would not disclose pricing.

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