Siebel Eyes Services

Next version of namesake CRM suite to support SOAP and UDDI Web services.

Siebel systems Inc. plans to add Web services and JCA support to its CRM software suite, an initiative that will help customer relationship management extend beyond the enterprise and link more directly with channel partners.

The next iteration of Siebel 7, expected to be available this summer, will support SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol)- and WSDL (Web Services Description Language)-based Web services. It will also support Java Connector Architecture on its Java client, officials for the San Mateo, Calif., company said.

The upgrade will enable easier integration in and out of organizations as well as more customization of application functions. "The benefits [of Web services] are that they use relatively open standards and are being pursued aggressively by many vendors so there are a lot of options," said Christopher Bell, chief technology officer of People2People Group. "We use them now and are continuing to develop in that direction," said Bell, whose Boston media services company uses technologies such as SOAP to transport data between its integrated voice response system and Web applications and reporting systems.

Siebel provides extensive integration capabilities, including prebuilt connectors to other applications and to business services such as XML over HTTP.

But in the forthcoming release, those business services will be exposed as WSDL-based services, published to a UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) directory and invoked as SOAP requests. This will provide customers with a common set of connectivity options and help them reduce their technology management needs, company officials said.

JCA support in Siebel 7s Java client will help standardize connectivity among applications. Web services will be layered over JCA, Siebel officials said, allowing Siebel to support Microsoft Corp.s .Net and Sun Microsystems Inc.s Open Net Environment initiatives.

Siebel also will capitalize on its data warehouse technology to enable its Web services implementations to go beyond mere connectivity. Siebels data mapping and transformation tools—part of the Siebel Data Warehouse—will provide transaction semantics translation so the systems can talk to one another, not just connect, officials said.

Siebel is not alone. E.piphany Inc. officials, also in San Mateo, said the next version of their E.5 CRM suite, due this year, will be built on Web services. In addition, Pivotal Corp., of Vancouver, British Columbia, likely will add support for WSDL and UDDI to its ePower suite by fall, officials said.

Despite their benefits, some smaller shops may find Web services overkill.

"For our size [of] company, we really wouldnt have much use for it," said Dave Wessinger, CIO of Wescom Solutions Inc., in Mississauga, Ontario, and a Siebel Mid-Market Edition customer. "But if we ship our Siebel install off-site to an [application service provider] that supported hundreds of Siebel installs, Web services support would be an advantage." ´