NetSuite Takes Aim at with New Program

The new NetFlex Applications Program seeks to provide data and seamless interoperability between NetSuite and partner applications.

Industry darling is seeing mounting competition from NetSuite Inc., in more ways than one.

NetSuite provides on demand ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) software.

The company announced Thursday a new NetFlex Applications Program, which leverages its NetFlex development platform to allow third-party vendors to tap into information in NetSuite and supply that to their applications.

The idea is to provide data and seamless interoperability between NetSuite and partner applications, according to Mini Peiris, vice president of product management at NetSuite.

San Mateo, Calif.-based NetSuite also announced Thursday that 30 partners have joined the NetFlex Applications Program and are developing both horizontal and vertical applications that integrate with NetSuite via NetFlex.

The partners focus on a variety of industries including retail, mobile, contact center, payroll services, professional services and health care, among others.

"The advantage we bring is [developers] can go beyond any functionality in Salesforce," said NetSuites Peiris. "So even with telephony, were looking at that beyond the sales force, but also billing." rolled out its AppExchange platform in September 2005.

Part of that offering—an online community where partners and developers can market their applications—includes the companys Appforce Integration platform where developers can create new applications that integrate with Salesforce.

Zach Nelson, NetSuites CEO, said a NetFlex comparison to AppExchange is a natural one, but there are subtle differences.

"When Salesforce rolled out AppExchange, they talked about a Microsoft sort of development environment, and both NetFlex and AppExchange lend themselves to that comparison," said Nelson.

"But what people really want to do with NetFlex is extend their applications. Whats different is these are applications that are extending the NetSuite data model—were not telling people to go build a pet management module that uses our general ledger."

Rather, Nelson said, NetFlex is based on a SAP AG-type environment where users pull out NetSuites functionality and add that into new applications and new vertical markets—extending NetSuites underlying accounts payable and receivables, for example, into health care.

NetSuite has built its applications on what it calls a "One System" architecture that encompasses CRM, ERP and e-commerce capabilities.

/zimages/1/28571.gifTo read more about NetSuites efforts to enhance its CRM products, click here.

The end result of that is users are not required to write extensions for a lot of features, including invoices, projects, billing schedules and commissions.

The architecture also enables a single point of integration for outside features, officials said.

The NetFlex platform itself is not new. The first iteration, announced last year, provided three basic functions: customization capabilities that allow users to add additional tables and support custom tables in NetSuite; a Web services platform for integration; and an XML platform that offers a more syntax-oriented protocol for integration.

With the NetFlex Applications Program, NetSuite is phasing out the XML piece of that platform and moving more to Web services that leverage SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) APIs to extend NetSuites functionality.

"More and more partners leverage Web services because they are more standards-based," Peiris said.

"More developers understand how to work with Web services, and leverage calls that we had in the past."

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