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Siebel -- The end of an era

As Siebel CustomerWorld drew to a close, so too did Siebel itself, but Oracle's president was on hand to assure customers.

BOSTON -- Seeking to provide some assurances to thousands of Siebel customers, Oracle president Charles Phillips gave the closing keynote address here Wednesday, promising that his company would provide lifetime support and migration paths once the $5.85 billion acquisition goes through.

It brought to a close not only Siebel's first CustomerWorld, renamed after a long history as Siebel User Week, but the future of the company.

"This is in a way the end of an era," said Siebel CEO George Shaheen. "This is our first CustomerWorld and is probably the last one. Tom Siebel had a clear vision and he had courage. He basically built and redefined the CRM space. This is a necessary step. It's one the market has applauded."

Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle's acquisition of its neighbor in San Mateo still requires regulatory approval, which, Phillips said, should come early next year.

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Phillips maintained Oracle's position that Siebel will be the foundation of Oracle CRM moving forward and promised that the lifetime support offered to owners of PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards software at Oracle OpenWorld would be extended to Siebel customers as well when the deal goes through. Those companies, along with Siebel and a number of smaller firms, are all part of an Oracle buying spree that Phillips said was undertaken to generate a critical mass in the enterprise applications market.

"If we're going to do that and acquire those customers, we have to support them," he said. "The CRM we had was not done as well. If we were going to change the industry, we needed to have CRM and there's no better company than Siebel."

Phillips also said key personnel would be kept on with Oracle and the combination of the companies would accelerate development.

Attendees looking for some assurances at the conference found it with Phillips' presentation.

"Particularly for us, on an older version of Siebel, it's reassuring there's a commitment," said Chris Marsh, manager of sales and marketing systems at Thomson Learning Centers Inc., a Denver-based company running Siebel 6. "We have a clear view of our path and I got more out of this User Week than I have in the past events. There's nothing in the Oracle deal that would make us step back."

In addition to Siebel's CRM product, Phillips singled out the company's analytics and OnDemand offerings as "hidden jewels" in the acquisition.

"We're in the on-demand business on the back end and together we'll have the largest application hosting business in the world," Phillips said, hoping to assuage fears that Oracle would kill Siebel's hosted CRM division.

However, a decision still needs to be made concerning Siebel's relationship with IBM, an Oracle competitor, which hosts the applications in its own data centers.

Siebel's products will be tied together with Oracle's own applications and the applications of its other acquisitions through Project Fusion, a "best-of-the-best" application suite run on an open architecture. Siebel had already begun a similar effort with Project Nexus, Phillips said.

"I'm confident the platform we're on will be supported," said Charles Clarke, manager of application development with AdminaStar Federal Inc. in Indianapolis. "We just finished a major upgrade to Siebel 7.7 and we want to get the most out of it."

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