Siebel, Microsoft forge three-year interoperability deal

Siebel and Microsoft Monday announced a three-year pact that will see both companies work towards greater interoperability between their products, quashing rumours

that Siebel may have been a takeover target for the Redmond, Wash., software giant.

The crux of Siebel’s work towards interoperability is the Universal Application Network (UAN), a business process library, design tool and integration server which was first announced in April and began shipping Monday. San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel will work on product integration with Microsoft’s Visual Studio as well as provide support for emerging Microsoft products like SharePoint and Office 11, scheduled for a 2003 release.

For its part, Microsoft will optimize the next generation of BizTalk server (code named Jupiter) for Siebel products. The three-year deal will also see a joint investment of US$250 million from both companies, and a joint development team of 250 employees.

Siebel chairman and CEO Tom Siebel estimated that interoperability projects like UAN can potentially drive the cost of application integration down 60 per cent and reduce time spent on integration by a factor of three. “”This is the major thrust of what Siebel is about to do for the next three years,”” he said.

“”It’s become very complex, perhaps too complex,”” said Siebel of the variety and complexity of enterprise applications available to the market. “”I’m surprised there’s not more outrage on the part of the customer. We have created an enormous economic problem for the customer base.””

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who joined Tom Siebel on stage at the company’s Worldwide User Week conference in Los Angeles, pegged integration savings closer to 25 per cent. But Gates acknowledged the tangled mess that application integration has become. His .Net Web services platform is in part designed to reduce this complexity. “”We should have a level of software that can run all of those different machines out there,”” said Gates. “”It will be achieved by turning every server into a Web service.””

Siebel has taken an important step with UAN, said IDC research manager Michelle Rosen, but added that it’s too soon to tell how important its partnership with Microsoft will be. Siebel’s UAN will work with integration servers from BEA, Mercator, SeeBeyond, TIBCO, Vitria, webMethods, IBM and now Microsoft. In September, IBM and Siebel pursued their own technology alliance. Under the partnership Siebel is licencing IBM business process templates to accelerate delivery of its UAN business process library.

“”It’s very hard to tell with alliances, unless you take a look at the contracts, how tight any particular relationship is,”” said Rosen. “”It’s an interesting tightrope that they’re walking. My impression (is) that they’re (Siebel) trying to be Switzerland.””

The industry is moving towards XML-driven connectors by necessity, added Rosen, but the idea of universal interoperability is still a pipe dream. “”The way to think about when we’re going to get there is similar to thinking about when we’re going to get rid of the last mainframe. Which is pretty much never.””

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