Hosted software vendor Salesforce.com is rolling out new integration tools to cut the cost and complexity of linking back-end enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications to its front-end customer relationship management (CRM) offerings.

The software as a service (SaaS) provider this week announced an out-of-the-box set of links for its applications to tie into Oracle's hosted ERP e-Business Suite 11i. It also unveiled new messaging technology and a programme to encourage independent software vendors (ISVs) to develop integration tools.

Key to the vendor's initiative is the rollout of the ApexConnect family of integration products, which will be available through Salesforce.com's AppExchange applications marketplace. The ApexConnect tools were all built using a common code base and on a single infrastructure that is centrally maintained.

The free tools will also provide integration to allow the Salesforce.com CRM software customers to share customer-related data with Oracle's E-Business Suite 11i, said Ariel Kelman, senior director of platform product marketing at Salesforce.com. The connectors, called ConnectOracle, will allow for a bidirectional flow of data between the application sets to ensure that information is synchronised. Salesforce.com already offers similar interconnects with SAP R/3.

ConnectOracle will be available in early 2007 and cost US$12,000 annually for Salesforce.com Enterprise and Unlimited Edition customers. Currently, there are no plans for integration with Oracle's PeopleSoft Enterprise business applications.

Kelman also said there would be a new messaging function in the Apex platform called ConnectOut. This tool will allow the Salesforce.com applications to automatically send out notifications to external third-party business and middleware applications to enable complete workflows. The ConnectOut tool will be offered as part of Salesforce.com's standard winter 2007 release.

This initiative will permit broad integration with legacy and third-party applications, said Denis Pombriant, analyst at US consultancy Beagle Research Group. The SaaS vendor now has a fully developed integration strategy and customers need not purchase standard connection tools any longer to solve integration problems, he said.