With the announcement by Oracle of their acquisition of RightNow earlier this week, it has brought about some strange bedfellows on how their mutual customers can connect up disparate CRM and other SaaS-based customer support systems. Indeed, at the center of the integration between Oracle and RightNow's technologies lies a product that is sold by IBM called WebSphere Cast Iron Cloud Integration. Let's look a bit more closely at what is going on here.

Cast Iron Systems was acquired by IBM in the summer of 2010 and since has been put under the WebSphere product group, even though it doesn't rely on the Web applications server itself. It can connect to a variety of information sources, including Oracle EBS and CRM, SAP, PeopleSoft, XML, and even Excel and flat-file databases. From these sources, it can eliminate duplicate records, provide a Web interface for searching, and have a visual workflow interface on top of everything to make it easily to implement.

For example, say you want to import your customer list from your CRM into your trouble ticketing system, or set up a knowledge base for your customer care center using some of this information. That is where Cast Iron comes in handy: to meld together different cloud-based sources.

Cast Iron isn't the only cloud-data-glue that is out there, indeed Dell bought its own company called Boomi AtomSphere last November that offers a similar set of features for connecting PeopleSoft, .NET and Salesforce. They have updated the service with better business rules and mapping features.

Pervasive Data Integrator is a third product for cloud data integration. It hasn't yet been bought by a major computing vendor but offers the widest collection of connectors. All three of these services support RightNow CX data repositories, by the way.

There is a fourth integration services vendor, new to this arena today. InsideView might be the best one of the bunch to get started if you are looking for one of these services as they offer a free version that offers some limited data exchange (the fully featured version costs $100 per user per month and is available on an annual subscription basis only). There are three separate software modules, including the ability to connect social profiles and set up alerts for activities from particular contacts.

It will be interesting to watch how the Oracle/RightNow acquisition plays out, I am at the RightNow user conference today and will file a report later about other activities. But it is likely that one of these integration technologies will play a larger role as a result.