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Siebel UAN: A Process- and Partner-Centric Approach to Integration - Part 2

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.

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).

A Partner-Centric Model
In contrast to all major ERP vendors’ enterprise application integration strategies, Siebel’s approach with UAN relies heavily on partnerships with established EAI vendors (e.g., BEA, IBM, Microsoft, SeeBeyond, Tibco, webMethods). Originally a UAN partner, Vitria has since shifted focus toward specific vertical markets and no longer directly supports UAN. Siebel has also partnered closely with major system integrators to support UAN delivery (e.g., Accenture, BearingPoint, CGE&Y, Deloitte Consulting, IBM Global Services) and with application partners to support predefined transformations (e.g., BMC, Fair Isaac, Group One, Jacada, Portal Software, Trillium, WRQ).

At the strategic enterprise level, we do not expect Siebel to sell many Business Integration Applications into greenfield integration sites, since most Siebel customers already have significant investments in one or more EAI solutions or in integration tools and technology. In addition, so far, EAI partners and SIs have reported limited demand pull from UAN on a global basis. However, we do expect UAN to help drive EAI competition within existing sites as well as help already established EAI vendors gain further traction within existing (joint) accounts.

Choosing a UAN Partner
In terms of UAN support, EAI vendor differentiation is centered on the speed and accuracy of each vendor’s implementation and testing of UAN-compliant Business Integration Applications. Siebel provides first-line support for all UAN-related issues and directs customers to the EAI vendor in question if the issue is specific to the integration server technology.

As Siebel’s domain expertise and intellectual property development grows, we expect Business Integration Applications to extend increasingly across multiple enterprise applications within an organization. Since most (if not all) of these strategic applications will include some level of customization or extension, users should also carefully evaluate the productivity and usability of EAI vendor-provided toolkits for modifying or augmenting Siebel-provided processes.

In terms of customer wins as well as actual deployments, Tibco and webMethods currently appear to have the strongest relationship with Siebel for UAN (three of the six live deployments are on webMethods). However, both IBM and BEA have deepened their technology partnership with Siebel during the past six months and are gaining traction in terms of customer wins. Microsoft’s implementation of UAN on BizTalk is yet to be delivered, but we expect this to change during the next 9-12 months as Microsoft becomes a major UAN partner.

Since we do not expect Siebel to sell many Business Integration Applications into greenfield sites, trends within the UAN partner ecosystem will mirror trends in the broader EAI market. Tibco, webMethods, and SeeBeyond all remain credible options for strategic EAI initiatives (whether UAN-centric or not). However, as the infrastructure market (and the EAI market in particular) consolidates further, we expect these EAI specialists to struggle to compete against the major infrastructure and platform vendors (e.g., BEA, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun), all of which have acquired or built credible EAI platforms.

Therefore, during the next 18-24 months, we expect IBM and possibly BEA to ultimately gain the most market share in UAN-centric accounts. In addition, Microsoft is potentially well-positioned for growth of UAN-based sales of BizTalk moving forward. Yet this relationship could be strained as the level of competition increases between Siebel and Microsoft in the CRM application space.

Siebel faces two major challenges in driving further adoption of UAN:

  • Increasing the supply of predefined, complex business processes: Many of these processes will extend well outside the company’s core CRM domain. However, Siebel has done a solid job so far of building vertical-specific expertise and leveraging that expertise to deliver Business Integration Applications.
  • Consistently improving the depth and breadth of processes as well as representation of these models via BPEL: These improvements will further simplify the porting process across multiple EAI platforms and ultimately improve support for process implementation, augmentation, and management. It is worth noting, however, that simplification of the porting process is not just a challenge for Siebel, since it is also dependent on further adoption of BPEL by EAI vendors as well as on Siebel’s ability to successfully navigate the ongoing changes to the BPEL standard itself.
In terms of overall positioning within the integration space, we believe Siebel is actually well-positioned to gain further traction with UAN during the next two to three years, as the company is able to focus specifically on extending its domain expertise and delivering vertical- and industry-specific content. Core integration services and technology (e.g., transport, routing) are increasingly being commoditized as XML-based Web services standards mature and the number of viable EAI vendors continues to shrink.

SAP’s approach with its Exchange Infrastructure (XI) effectively is to compete directly with major EAI vendors. In contrast, Siebel’s partner-centric approach reduces the risk of vendor lock-in and leverages the fundamental advantage EAI vendors have over enterprise application vendors themselves - namely, stronger support for integration as well as introspection into multiple, often directly competitive, enterprise applications.

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 17 March 2004.

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