iCAP Introduces a ‘Ximple’ Solution for Affordable ERP Replacement
July 6, 2004 Alex Woodie
Considering that the average lifespan of an ERP system is 12 to 15 years, a lot of ERP systems installed in the early days of the AS/400 now need replacing, says Carlos Caguado, president of iCAP International. “Several products are going down to the end of life,” he says, including J.D. Edwards World, BPCS, and others. The company iCAP hopes to attract these devotees of the OS/400 platform with Ximple, a new Web-based ERP system launched earlier this year.
After companies completed their Y2K remediation projects, and the Internet bubble burst in 2000, there wasn’t much consulting work to be found in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. “That was the catalyst, the trigger,” Caguado says. “I made the decision to write a horizontal [ERP] suite that can go across the market.”
So Caguado beefed up the R&D department at his Kensington, Maryland, company. He hired database specialists and programmers, some right out of college, and worked with his two architects, Lester Hou and Yan Wang, to create a blueprint for the ERP suite, using the Rational Rose development tools (now owned by IBM). One of the first major milestones was deciding which platform it would run on. “Back in 2001 we didn’t know, ‘Is it going to be [based on] Microsoft, WebLogic, Oracle, or Sun Microsystems? Nobody knew,” he says. Caguado had worked with the IBM midrange platform since the early 1970s, along with many of its most popular ERP packages, and it was finally decided that the new application suite would run on OS/400: on WebSphere on OS/400, to be exact.
What the company developed was Ximple (pronounced “simple”), a three-tiered ERP suite based on Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE). The first layer is GUI served by JavaServer Pages technology. Just about any Web browser can work as the client, but iCAP recommends Internet Explorer 4.6 or later versions. In the middle sits the “controller” component, which resides in WebSphere and holds all the business logic. “When we first started to use that [controller], nobody knew what we were talking about. Now it’s being taught in school,” Caguado says. The third layer, the database layer, resides in DB2/400 and accesses the business logic via SQL stored procedures.
Ximple has 10 components. They include Billing; Accounts Receivable; Accounts Payable; General Ledger; Work Orders Administration; Banking and Bank Reconciliation; Inventory Catalog; Warehouse Management; Order Entry; and Shipping/Receiving.
The software is available in several different packages. The standard package includes the basic financial software. The Advanced package adds to this the inventory management pieces, while the Enterprise package adds interactive reporting capabilities and Order Entry (which adds considerably to the CPW requirements of the server running it, Caguado says). Alternatively, customers can license the Web-based software through an application service provider. The company is primarily targeting distributors and light manufacturers with sales of less than $1 billion.
iCAP is also participating in IBM’s i5 Express packaging. For about $57,000, customers can purchase the advanced package of Ximple loaded on an eServer i5 Model 520 Express computer with 500 CPW of interactive, 2 GB of memory, and a 70 GB disk drive. This offering, which is for groups of 15 people or fewer, comes with three years of hardware maintenance, three years of Ximple maintenance, training, setup, and one year of phone support. Another package, designed for up to 30 people, costs $103,500 and provides the same application software on the same i5 Model 520 bumped up to 1,000 CPW of interactive. While the Java application does require its share of RAM (2 GB minimum), about half of the CPWs are for running WebSphere, Caguado says. “We have this configured to be an efficient animal.”
Development of the ERP suite continues. The current release, Ximple V5R3, will be augmented with MRP capabilities this summer, and this September will see support for other languages besides English, including French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. In 2005, iCAP plans to add document management and workflow capabilities to the suite to enable offices to enjoy a “paperless environment,” Caguado says.
Ximple has only been out for a few months and there are not many users currently. Besides iCAP, one other company, a bakery, uses the software, Caguado says. “The IBMers that have seen my product qualify it as outstanding,” he says. “Now we are dedicating 80 percent of our time to develop and promote the channels.” Currently the company has 8 resellers, with five in the United States and one each in Europe, Canada, and Central America.
Ximple requires V5R2 or later versions of OS/400, and WebSphere 4.0 or later (including WebSphere Express). For more information, go to www.cap400.com.