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With new tool, Kana plays Switzerland in call center

With this week's release of its Service 8 multi-channel customer support package, Kana becomes a neutral technology player, supporting both J2EE and .NET infrastructures.

Kana Software Inc. introduced its Service 8 contact center management applications set this week. Developed through an outsourced production partnership with Accenture, the offering makes good on the software vendor's promise to market tools designed to work with both J2EE and .NET-based systems.

The Service 8 package represents its first official release that supports .NET. While the Microsoft platform has yet to catch on widely with users, industry experts believe the architecture may become a popular building block for enterprise applications. Menlo Park, Calif.-based Kana delivered its first J2EE-oriented applications earlier this year.

Service 8 stands as the contact center management piece of Kana's iCare CRM lineup. Among the functional upgrades featured in the new release are secure messaging, global access to customer information, role-based data management tools, and more powerful reporting capabilities. According to Alan Hubbard, vice president of product engineering at Kana, Service 8 addresses many of the issues users had expressed concerns about in previous iterations of the software.

"Customers were telling us that they needed more in the way of administration tools and, with more worldwide users than ever before, we knew the global access piece was a crucial area to work on," Hubbard said.

Hubbard said the primary goal of Kana's co-development partnership with consultancy Accenture was speeding time to market for the offering. India-based software developers affiliated with Accenture began working on the system each day as U.S. business hours would end, creating a 24-hour design process that allowed Kana to build Service 8 in just four months.

Industry experts lauded Kana's aggressiveness in working to get applications into users' hands more rapidly. Kelly Ferguson, principal analyst at Current Analysis, Reston, Va., said the firm continues to struggle integrating all of the companies it has acquired over the past several years. But she said Kana's delivery on its promise to supply systems built for use with either J2EE and .NET shows it is making progress.

"Kana did so many acquisitions that it is still making it hard for them to get momentum," Ferguson said. "However, building applications for .NET is something the company has been talking about for some time, and they've been able to pull it off."

While Ferguson agrees that Microsoft's .NET has yet to gain as large a following as the J2EE (Java 2, Enterprise Edition) architecture developed by Sun Microsystems Inc., she thinks it could be important to users down the road. By delivering products that work with both platforms, Ferguson said, Kana has established itself as the "Switzerland," or neutral player, in the ongoing battle for attention between the two software giants.

Other experts believe Kana could be one of the companies to benefit from the current industry turmoil over Oracle Corp.'s takeover bid for PeopleSoft Inc.

"I think the Oracle bid and the uncertainty that goes along with it could help some smaller players like Kana win deals on the quality of their applications," said Steve Bonadio, senior program director at Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group. "Where users have been looking at the larger companies based on the belief that they had more viability over the last several years, companies with innovative technology could take this opportunity to re-establish themselves."


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