Siebel simplifies business apps integration

Customer relationship management (CRM) vendor Siebel Systems has announced a Web services-based method for tying its software in...

Customer relationship management (CRM) vendor Siebel Systems has announced a Web services-based method for tying its software in with other business applications, in a quest to ensure easier integration.

This summer, the company will release its Universal Application Network. Using an IBM-created standard called Web Services Flow Language (WSFL), Siebel will let users model business processes as reusable objects that plug into any leading enterprise application integration (EAI) system.

"I've had to do a lot of this integration myself to our legacy applications," said Alan Grometstein, vice-president of technology at New York-based brokerage Quick & Reilly. "This could take one major level of effort and worry out of bringing something new into our infrastructure."

Last month, Novell executive Chris Stone promised to migrate his company's product line to XML-based interfaces. German enterprise resource planning company SAP already publishes many of its application program interfaces in XML and is working with Commerce One to develop a common business library for external transactions.

Willett said many IT development projects centred on e-business "buzzwords", such as CRM, B2B and ERP have fallen short because they do not necessarily plug into the rest of a user's architecture.

"It's been a big pain," Willett said. "That's why you have this whole integration industry that's developed by building adaptors to all these applications. You've got to have something in the middle."

Grometstein said that's precisely what he's been hoping for as he moves toward upgrading to Siebel 7 later this year. He would like to take the latest Siebel offering, which will handle order management and trade order entry for his retail brokerage and call centre, and tie it in with a new PeopleSoft human resources system.

Willett noted, however, that it is hard for any one vendor to offer standardised approaches to integration because other vendors also must support the same standards for the process to work. He added that WSFL faces a competing Web service standard called Business Process Modelling Language (BPML), whose supporters include Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.

"There's been talk of merging the two, and hopefully that will happen," he said.

However, some analysts believe that WSFL and BPML are really too "young" to be considered standards at all.

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