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PeopleSoft details integration plans

PeopleSoft unveils a long-awaited road map for providing their business software users and partners easier ways to integrate PeopleSoft applications with those from other vendors.

PeopleSoft today unveiled a long-awaited road map for providing their business software users and partners easier ways to integrate PeopleSoft applications with those from other vendors.

PeopleSoft's Open Integration Framework (OIF) is an application programming interface layer for linking PeopleSoft's enterprise resource planning (ERP) package to software from other makers.

However, the tools won't be available until PeopleSoft 8 is released in the second quarter of next year. The framework is intended to make it easier to link a Vantive call center application or an SAP human resources application, for example, to a PeopleSoft back-office application without extensive hand coding.

ERP vendors see an open architecture as key to competing in new markets they are hotly pursuing, including supply chain management and customer relationship management, said Giga Information Group analyst Jim Holincheck. PeopleSoft and other ERP vendors are scrambling to develop coherent product strategies in both areas and need a common framework to be more competitive, he said.

But Pleasanton, California-based PeopleSoft is somewhat late to this game, analysts said, noting SAP started providing its core R/3 users with a similar framework about two years ago. SAP's so-called BAPIs (business application programming interfaces), which are standard, reusable object-oriented interfaces, let programmers using a variety of languages such as Visual Basic and Java to write and create new application components for SAP R/3. BAPIs link R/3 to groupware, telephony, and mobile computing applications.

"The fact that (OIF) is only coming out in version 8 is somewhat of a handicap," said Joshua Greenbaum, head of Enterprise Application Consulting in Berkeley, California. "It's something (PeopleSoft) should have done awhile ago."

Yet Greenbaum said PeopleSoft was somewhat "blindsided" by the quick growth of the Internet and it made little sense for the company to rewrite their existing product line to provide better application integration.

Like SAP, which plans to support Extensible Markup Language (XML) within its BAPIs this year, PeopleSoft plans XML support with its Internet-enabled application programming interfaces (APIs) for application messaging, among other functions. XML support could make it easier for PeopleSoft users to exchange information with other companies, for one example.

Without OIF, or a so-called "published" API, customers could potentially integrate applications, though it would be more cumbersome and require additional programming.

In addition to the new framework, PeopleSoft also announced open integration partnerships with enterprise application integration middleware vendors Active Software, BEA, CrossWorlds, New Era of Networks (NEON), ObTech, OnDisplay, Software Technologies Corporation, and TSI International Software.

Through these alliances, PeopleSoft plans to ship a large number of prebuilt, certified products, with an initial drive toward integrating with SAP R/3, a move users have been demanding, said Tim Murray, director of PeopleSoft's OIF program.