The partnership has grown out of Siebel's Universal Application Network (UAN) initiative, launched in April as a way to ease integration headaches and the high costs associated with its CRM software. UAN hinges on using standards to create prebuilt business processes, common object models, and data transformation maps that marry Siebel CRM with back-office systems.
Templates will address a process such as "place customer order" that originates in a Siebel call centre application, but needs to flow back into an enterprise's logistics, supply chain and billing systems to execute successfully.
"From an end-user perspective, they don't want to see application investments made in specific areas being disconnected from related parts of their business," said Paraic Sweeney, vice-president of marketing for WebSphere Business Integration. "They want a mechanism for a business process that drives across multiple applications."
Central to the deal is the first major version release of Siebel UAN, which will operate on the IBM WebSphere Business Integration platform. In addition, Siebel will license IBM's stable of 70 to 100 prebuilt business process templates and object models, many of which came to IBM via its acquisition of CrossWorlds Software in January. For its part, IBM plans to concurrently sell WebSphere Business Integration server as the infrastructure platform needed to execute the process integration, according to Sweeney.
The two companies are also offering a customised migration path for Siebel customers who want to move away from their existing point-to-point application integration architecture to the UAN approach, Sweeney said.
Siebel has also said that it will use IBM's WebSphere Business Integration platform internally to tie together its applications.
IBM is not alone in working on Siebel's UAN. The CRM giant has linked up with a number of integration vendors including Tibco Software, Vitria Technology, SeeBeyond, and webMethods. Each is developing its own set of business processes and process design tools aimed at the problem. Siebel has also enlisted partners in the systems integrator community, including Accenture, KPMG and IBM Global Services to drive the implementation phase of UAN rollouts.
However, the tight ties with IBM could translate into a difficult balancing act for Siebel with regard to the other middleware vendors, according to some analysts. "That's the challenge of trying to be Switzerland," said Michele Rosen, industry analyst at IDC.
Rosen questioned how the licensing of IBM's common object models to define and map data such as "customer" across Siebel and other applications is going to impact on the other enterprise application integration vendors' object models that work with Siebel. "If you're going to base your objects on those from IBM, then that implies that there is a tighter connection with IBM than the others," Rosen said.