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Volume 14, Number 7 -- April 1, 2014

Infor's CloudSuite for AWS: What it Means to IBM i Customers

Published: April 1, 2014

by Alex Woodie

You can count Infor among the software vendors who are setting up a software as service (SaaS) business within the confines of Amazon's massive data center. The software giant's IBM i-based ERP products won't be running here--Amazon Web Services is an Intel-only affair for the new Infor CloudSuite offering unveiled last week--but you can bet that Infor will be positioning the cloud products favorably to at last part of its IBM i installed base.

Infor isn't new to the SaaS or cloud-hosting business. Like all major ERP vendors, it has partnered with various private cloud providers to give its customers the option to get out of the business of owning and managing the hardware infrastructure necessary to run a large enterprise application system. Among the managed service providers (MSPs) that Infor has worked with (in the IBM i and Power Systems arena anyway) are Abacus Solutions, IBM, NTT Data, and Velocity Technology Solutions.

Those MSPs may not be thrilled to hear that Infor is now throwing in with AWS, by far the biggest dog on the hosting block. It can be tough to compete on a CPU-by-CPU, GB-by-GB basis with AWS, which spans 10 regions and 25 AWS "availability zones." When it comes to building hyper-scale enterprise infrastructure and delivering it on the cheap, nobody beats AWS.

On the other hand, because AWS can't and won't run IBM i workloads, the shift to AWS may not be a major impediment to growth for Infor's MSP partners. The biggest impediment to growth for the private cloud providers continues to be the reluctance of customers to move their production ERP systems and their data to cloud environments.

Infor will target multiple industries with its new CloudSuite running on Amazon AWS.

In any event, the launch of the CloudSuite is a major life event for Infor, if for no other reason than Infor is now offering SaaS on a public cloud with a subscription-based pricing model, which will allow it to compete with the NetSuites and Salesforces of the world. The company says it already has 2,100 CloudSuite customers, which includes any and all public cloud-based programs it previously offered, including Enwisen HR Service Delivery, Learning Management, PeopleAnswers Talent Science, Orbis Marketing Resource Management, and others.

The big news, though, are the new industry-specific CloudSuite offerings that Infor plans to launch on Amazon AWS throughout the year. It will start this spring with new automotive, aerospace and defense, and hospitality offerings, and continue this summer, when we'll see the new Infor CloudSuite Corporate, which will include the core best-in-class financials and a complete HCM suite. CEO Charles Phillips has successfully positioned Infor as the go-to ERP vendor to get specific industry micro-vertical functionality, and if he can transition that positioning into the cloud with subscription-based pricing, that's a threat that Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft will have to take seriously.

Infor pulled from various existing ERP and enterprise products to build the new AWS CloudSuite offerings. The core enterprise foundations come from Infor LN (Baan), Infor M3, Infor Lawson (S3 and other former Lawson assets), Infor SyteLine, and Infor SunSystems. Infor is pulling logic from other products to address specific industry requirements, including its EAM, Expense Management, Enwisen, and the recently acquired PeopleAnswers functionality. As expected, Infor is leveraging its ION middleware and its Ming.le social collaboration tools; it would be surprising if the HTML5 SoHo interface isn't included (although it wasn't mentioned by name). Analytics will also be part of the solution, which is not surprising since Infor was already selling a white-labeled version of Amazon's Red Shift data warehouse service.

Infor will help customers migrate to the CloudSuite through its UpgradeX program. This may be tempting for Lawson M3 customers, many of whom run on IBM i and who may be willing to allow Infor to help move them for a fixed price. (One wonders what's involved in migrating a Java-based M3 implementation from IBM's Power platform and technology to the Windows-on-Intel platform and technology, but presumably Infor and Amazon have figured all that out.)

In any event, the CloudSuite probably won't interest IBM i customers who are happy with their Infor ERP products, especially if they're running one of the "big three" IBM i products, ERP LX (BPCS), ERP XA (MAPICS), and ERP System21, which are "Infor10" rated and hooked up into ION, Ming.le, SoHo, RedShift, etc. Other IBM i ERP products that Infor is actively supporting as Infor10 products (or at least plans to hook into ION) include Distribution A+ (formerly daly.commerce) and the Lawson M3 products.

An Infor spokesperson says the company is "currently evaluating opportunities for our IBM i customers to take advantage of the most cutting edge technology available, including CloudSuite." The company is "exploring options for customers who wish to remain with their i-based applications and move them to the cloud, and also for customers that would prefer to move their existing data to CloudSuite."

If they can get over the fact that they're data is in AWS, the CloudSuite may hold appeal to customers who are running older IBM i-based ERP products from Infor, including Infinium, PRMS, PRISM, KBM, and MACPAC XE, which Infor will never sunset but also isn't upgrading.

Infor has been working hard over the years to get these customers to upgrade to the modern Infor10 products. That includes the top-tier IBM i products, like LX, XA, and System21, but migration routes have also been dangled for other non-IBM i-ERP product families too, such as ERP LN and Syteline. Since CloudSuite equivalents of these products are in the offing, it would not be surprising if Infor at least offered that as an option.


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