Siebel UAN: A Process- and Partner-Centric Approach to Integration - Part 1

The Universal Application Network (UAN) is Siebel's enterprise application integration initiative. Along with analytics, UAN is critical to Siebel's strategy of expanding and deepening its application and technology footprint within enterprise accounts.
Written by Michael Barnes, Contributor

The Universal Application Network (UAN) is Siebel's enterprise application integration initiative. Along with analytics, UAN is critical to Siebel's strategy of expanding and deepening its application and technology footprint within enterprise accounts.

META Trend: During 2004/05, Tier 1 ERP vendors (e.g., Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP) will focus on building comprehensive application infrastructure for commercial sale, albeit with limited appeal to non-ERP shops. On the other hand, standalone/emerging vendors (e.g., CRM, SCM) will leverage commercial infrastructure (e.g., BEA, IBM, Microsoft) to facilitate application integration. Through 2007, vendors will evolve to service-oriented architectures. Concurrently, proprietary development environments will merge with ubiquitous tools (e.g., Eclipse, Visual Studio .Net) to support new application development.

Supporting the Customer Life Cycle
We expect Global 2000 organizations to continue pursuing strategies for reducing application and data integration costs by consolidating back-office and customer-facing functionality around fewer strategic software providers. In fact, from a business perspective, this front/back-office integration mandate is critical to enabling a holistic customer life cycle and ensuring that customers are not exposed to internal stovepipes. At the same time, Tier 1 ERP vendors (e.g., PeopleSoft/JD Edwards, Oracle, SAP) are steadily expanding their footprints within organizations’ overall software infrastructure (and thereby increasing their strategic importance within enterprise accounts). A core focus area for these vendors is the delivery of improved (or in some cases initial) support for cross-application business processes.

With UAN, Siebel has taken a unique approach to enabling process automation by decoupling Siebel-delivered XML and Web services standards-based business processes (e.g., Business Integration Applications) from underlying partner-delivered integration services (e.g., transport, routing). In other words, although still clearly focused on expanding its footprint within strategic accounts, Siebel is executing this strategy by building and delivering content (i.e., business processes, transformations, and common objects), while partners provide much of the core infrastructure on which these components run. This is in contrast to Tier 1 ERP vendors, all of whom are targeting delivery of both content and infrastructure themselves.

META Group expects the number of vendors providing a credible software infrastructure services stack for building, integrating, deploying, and managing enterprise applications to stabilize through 2005/06. In fact, we believe survival of business application vendors will depend on their ultimately having an open, pan-application integration strategy that helps deliver on the promise of service-based component assembly paradigms. Therefore, Siebel’s strategy is the correct approach to expanding its footprint while simultaneously remaining focused on the company’s core competency - optimizing industry-specific, customer-facing processes.

During the year since UAN was released, Siebel lists 50 customers as purchasing UAN-compliant Siebel Business Integration Applications. Of these, six are currently live (including Network Appliance, Fujitsu Siemens, and BMC Software). Although still insignificant as a percentage of total revenue, this uptake of UAN is impressive given Siebel’s lack of presence and credibility in the enterprise application integration (EAI) market. Yet in terms of mainstream adoption within Siebel’s global customer base, we believe it will be another six to nine months (at least) before Siebel (and ERP vendors such as SAP and PeopleSoft) are in a position to deliver fully functional (and stable) EAI solutions that support both integration and, more importantly, process automation and extension. Therefore, users should track UAN closely, with a particular focus on customer references.

Background and Positioning
Announced in May and released in November 2002, UAN 1.0 was originally focused on horizontal processes such as order management, partner relationship management, expense reporting, and the customer/product life cycle. As part of the initial co-development between Siebel engineers and EAI partners, these processes were originally delivered to the EAI partners via design documents (typically Visio or Microsoft Word documents) and included a view of the logical data model as well as basic steps within the process. UAN 2.0 was released in March 2003, with added support for industry-specific vertical processes (such as quote to cash and service provisioning for telecom). More importantly, all design-time artifacts were formalized within a standard conceptual grammar via WSFL (Web Services Flow Language).

With UAN 4.0 (scheduled for release in 2Q04), Siebel has rewritten the integration processes in the more widely adopted BPEL4WS (Business Process Execution Language for Web Services) standard. Siebel’s current approach to delivering Business Integration Applications is to model the processes within Tibco BusinessWorks and then migrate this physical implementation from Tibco to the standard UAN grammar files (XSD, XSLT, and BPEL). The standards-based files are then physically implemented on all other EAI partner platforms.

Understanding UAN Components
In addition to core business logic encapsulated in a process model, UAN includes predefined transformations that map Siebel’s common object model to external applications (e.g., SAP, i2). In fact, some of this mapping of data semantics has been available since Siebel V. 6. Mapping to SAP, for instance, was enabled via the Siebel Enterprise Connector for SAP R/3 (e.g., Siebel BusObject interfaced to SAP BAPIs).

The Siebel Business Integration Applications within UAN comprise three core components:

  • Siebel Business Integration Processes: Business process mapping is the heart of Siebel’s value-add with UAN (over and above offerings from EAI vendors themselves). These business processes (and relevant conditional logic or business rules) are combined to map to CRM and CRM-related solutions (i.e., Business Integration Applications) built on the UAN architecture and implemented via partner-provided EAI infrastructures. Interfaces into the processes are defined via WSDL (Web Services Description Language). Examples include Sync Account, Create Order, and Request Duplicate Invoice.
  • Siebel Business Integration Common Objects: With data definition/representation supported via XSD (XML Schema Definition), common objects act as a composite of various schemas and represent a data model that encompasses relationships, hierarchies, etc. This eliminates the need to map the data models of multiple, different applications directly to one another (since each data model is mapped to common objects). Examples of common objects include account, contact, invoice, and order.
  • Siebel Business Integration Transformations: Defined in XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation), transformations are used to reconcile the differences among different data models. They are created once and then ported to each underlying EAI platform by Siebel.
Modification of processes or functions within any of these three components is accomplished via an EAI vendor-provided toolkit.

Bottom Line: Although still immature in terms of customer deployments, UAN helps Siebel position itself to expand its footprint successfully within strategic accounts while simultaneously remaining focused on the company’s core competency - optimizing industry-specific, customer-facing processes.

Business Impact: Organizations should strategically plan to automate, extend, and optimize complex business processes that cut across multiple applications, departments, and business domains, since this will remain key to enabling sustainable competitive differentiation and growth.

META Group originally published this article on 11 March 2004.

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