Infor ION: More Than 900 Loosely Served
Published: March 12, 2013
by Alex Woodie
Infor says ION, its loosely coupled, XML-based integration platform, has been adopted by more than 900 customers around the word. In fact, Infor says the two-year-old product is selling so well that it's currently the top selling and fastest growing product in the entire Infor lineup. To help drive ION's growth going forward--especially with integrations to social and mobile solutions--Infor hired former Oracle executive Steve Moroski to manage the ION program.
ION, which stands for Intelligent Open Network, is a middleware stack designed to help Infor customers integrate their Infor ERP systems with other Infor products, such as Infor's mobile and social media offerings, called Motion and Mingle, respectively. ION is also a key part of Business Vault, the in-context, Windows-based analytics tool that Infor has been talking about for over a year.
The heart of ION is an enterprise service bus (ESB) and message broker that's based on open source, Java Messaging Service (JMS)-based Apache ActiveMQ. Surrounding that core are various event managers, workflow enablers, and file and database connectors that hook into Infor systems, as well as well as third-party vendors and service providers, such as Salesforce, Workday, and SAP.
Since Infor launched ION in 2011, the company's developers have built dozens of XML-based business object documents (BODs) that power the ION integrations. These OAGI-conforming BODs are the key to the loosely based coupling that Infor says keeps integrations from breaking when underlying ERP systems are upgraded, and what makes ION a good choice for customers.
The flexibility and loosely coupled nature of ION is key to its success, and the reason that more than 50 percent of ION customers are using the software to integrate Infor apps with third-party applications, says Moroski, who came to Infor about two months ago from Oracle's engineered systems program.
"The big differentiator in what we're doing with our tech stack versus some of the others in the marketplace is we're embracing this idea of heterogeneity," he says. "I want to work with [SAP] HANA. I want to work with [Oracle] Exadata. I want to work well in the heterogeneous on-prem environment. But at the same time, I want to be able to bring integration . . . to cloud deployments as well."
While Moroski's previous employer is asking customers to place many of their enterprise eggs in the Oracle engineered systems basket, Infor is taking a completely different approach. "We believe [heterogeneity] is not going to go away, versus saying, 'Hey everything has to be a Red Stack or a Blue Stack.' That's the difference between loosely coupled and tightly integrated," he says.
The lightweight nature of ION is another bullet point on the Infor sales pitch. "It's not super expensive. It's not heavy weight. It doesn't have all the feature bloat that kind of goes along with a typical middleware solution. So that's a big differentiator," Moroski says "Nobody's going with the monolithic deployment model any more. You've got Workday, Salesforce, SAP--we can play in the middle of all that in a loosely coupled, lightweight fashion."
Most, but not all IBM i products in Infor's stable can utilize ION out of the box. Every current Infor app with the "Infor10" moniker is, by definition, hooked into ION by default, and in most cases, Infor builds BODS that allow ION to work with several previous versions of the ERP systems. The most widely used products in Infor's System i division--ERP LX, XA, and System21--were the first to get enabled. A+, Infinium, and Lawson M3 products are also ION enabled, even though they don't bare the Infor10 name. PRISM, PRMS, and KBM users must build their own BODs.
In the near future, you can expect Infor to introduce new ION capabilities, particularly in the area of social media integration. A lot of this surrounds the consumerization of enterprise applications. "What we're doing from a social perspective--it's not just a news feed. That's not very interesting in and of itself. If you look at being able to drill back through ERP to build out a social business graph--this is the most exciting thing I think we're working on right now, because it makes business process management social."
Infor has a number of ION success stories among IBM i shops, and is working on getting permission to share them.
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