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Siebel leaps on .NET bandwagon

Siebel Systems, San Mateo, Calif. (http://www.siebel.com), and Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com) disclosed details of a wide-ranging strategic alliance during Siebel's user conference held last week in Los Angeles. Executives of both firms contend that the deal will culminate in enterprise solutions that exploit Web services.

As part of the alliance -- which will include joint development, sales and support targeted at enterprise customers -- Siebel's CRM application suite will be optimized for the Microsoft Windows Server operating systems, Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft .NET Framework; in turn, Siebel will use Microsoft Visual Studio .NET as its primary development toolset. In a statement, Thomas M. Siebel, chairman and CEO, said, ''Enterprise applications are shifting to industry-specific business processes and best practices exposed through Web services.''

While the announcement was cloaked in a ''Web services'' mantle, the cornerstone of this alliance ''has to do with the ubiquity of the Siebel Smart Client,'' said Eric Austvold, research director, enterprise applications and technologies at AMR Research (http://www.amrresearch.com) in Boston.

Siebel eBusiness Applications will use Microsoft .NET technologies to enhance interactivity of the Siebel Smart Client, integrate more tightly with Microsoft Office and support deployment on emerging mobile devices. ''Siebel today in the 7.0 release has a substantial amount of proprietary code they've been maintaining,'' said Austvold. ''They have to deal with the ubiquity of information, regardless of location or device -- cell, PDA, laptop ... it runs the gamut. In essence, they will let Microsoft build that code for them, which will allow Siebel to re-allocate those resources to a more appropriate role.'' And tighter integration with Microsoft Office also makes sense, Austvold said, because many workers already use Office and the Siebel client today forces a change -- ''the biggest obstacle'' to acceptance.

One question the alliance raises, said Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at ZapThink (http://www.zapthink.com), is ''Where is the Web services story? What we find interesting in the last few weeks is that Microsoft is moving away from the '.NET is for interoperability story'; this story is that Siebel will run on .NET.'' The message they are sending, Bloomberg said, is that ''if you want to do Siebel, you really should do it on .NET.''

While the Siebel-Microsoft alliance is more about infrastructure and integration, the two companies each target the CRM space. ''Siebel is at the high end and Microsoft is at the low end [with its Great Plains software]; there's some overlap in middle,'' said AMR Research's Austvold. ''If they are competing, one of them is in the wrong spot. It's not much of an issue today, but maybe five years from now it might be.''

In a related announcement, Siebel said it is now shipping its Universal Application Network, a standards-based vendor-independent application integration solution. Siebel has also unveiled what it called the first set of industry-specific business processes based on best practices for Universal Application Network. And as part of the Siebel-Microsoft alliance, Microsoft BizTalk Server joins the Universal Application Network program; integration servers from BEA, IBM, Mercator, SeeBeyond, Tibco, Vitria, and webMethods already participate. BizTalk Server's graphical business-process design tools will be the preferred toolset for Universal Application Network business processes. BizTalk will bring Universal Application Network support for BPEL4WS, the Business Process Execution Language.

About the Author

Colleen Frye is a freelance writer based in Bridgewater, Mass.

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