Intel Partnership Doesn’t Hurt iSeries Strategy, JDA Software Says
May 31, 2005 Alex Woodie
JDA Software Group says it still has a valid OS/400 strategy and strong support from its iSeries customers, despite the new Microsoft Windows .NET-based product portfolio unveiled earlier this year and the new partnership with Intel it announced last week. Like many of IBM‘s iSeries ISVs, JDA, whose OS/400-based merchandise management system and supply chain optimization software is used by hundreds of customers, has been forced to make a difficult decision between .NET and J2EE.
The comments made last week by Peter Charness, JDA’s chief product officer and its senior vice president of global marketing, would seem to leave little doubt as to which middleware and development platform JDA has staked its future on. “By combining Intel’s superior hardware architecture and technology platforms with JDA’s best-of-breed software utilizing Microsoft .NET, we are in an excellent position to leverage our expertise” in developing enterprise retail software systems.
In explaining its marketing and development partnership with Intel, JDA cited Intel advances, such as its X64 architecture, its Execute Disable feature to thwart viruses and other malware, and its support for Hyper-Threading to boost performance. Intel has committed to providing JDA with hardware to ensure that its software is optimized for Intel’s X64 and Itanium 2 processors, and the companies will participate in various co-marketing activities, as well.
Despite the new relationship with Intel, a quick search of IBM’s Web site reveals that JDA is still a loyal soldier in Big Blue’s J2EE and iSeries armies. “JDA started as a software company that developed software for the IBM AS/400 platform, and we’ve always been an IBM business partner,” Charness says in this IBM article on the IBM Web site. What’s more, Charness gives this rationale for explaining JDA’s decision to standardize on IBM’s stack–including WebSphere, Linux, DB2, and J2EE–at least as far as its in-store point-of-sale (POS) offerings go. “A single-vendor J2EE technology stack gives us the best of two worlds. It gives us the open-standards environment backed by a broad and vibrant community working to enhance technology standards and move things forward.”
So which is it? Is JDA a Microsoft .NET devotee or is it still loyal to IBM and a backer of IBM’s J2EE push? Or could it still be walking the tightrope between them, trying to cover its indecisiveness with carefully chosen marketing prattle? The answer is: both. Considering that JDA has grown through acquisition and has a large and varied product set, maintaining close ties with both major development stacks is a wise thing to do.
But judging from last week’s Intel partnership, and the new .NET-based PortfolioEnabled products the company unveiled at its annual user conference, JDA Focus, earlier this year, the Windows side has won, and .NET has been chosen as the eventual platform that JDA’s products will be developed to run on. What’s more, some of JDA’s iSeries customers applaud the .NET direction the company is taking, according to JDA.
In January, JDA announced a deal that will allow its customers (including the iSeries-using MMS shops) that are current on their maintenance payments to move their current products–free of charge, on a one-for-one basis–to the first .NET-based PortfolioEnabled product, called the Portfolio Strategic Merchandise Management suite. The first products available under this 2005.1 release include: Portfolio Replenishment Optimization by E3; Portfolio Revenue Management featuring Trade Event Management; Portfolio Registry integrated Portfolio Data Synchronization; and Portfolio Enterprise Planning by Arthur, which is slated for availability this quarter.
While JDA’s stated direction for new application development is clearly focused on .NET (although JDA continues to keep its toe in the J2EE waters by writing POS software and some other software in Java), that shouldn’t be of immediate concern to JDA’s iSeries customers, a JDA spokeswoman says. For one thing, JDA CEO Hamish Brewer, at the January JDA Focus event, announced that the company would support the OS/400-based MMS product (officially called Portfolio Merchandise Management System-I) for at least 10 years, and the Advanced Replenishment by E3 applications for at least seven years.
And .NET doesn’t necessarily mean a re-write for JDA’s OS/400 customers. “We are stressing that PortfolioEnabled does not mean a complete rewrite of our applications to .NET,” a JDA spokeswoman says. “While some applications are migrating to .NET, we can take many of our existing synchronized applications and make them Enabled without re-writing all or much of the code.”
One of the ways that JDA plans to enable its OS/400 customers to take advantage of the functionality available in the new .NET-based PortfolioEnabled products–without a wholesale re-write or migration of those OS/400-based applications to .NET–is a new product JDA introduced called Portfolio Integrator.
JDA describes Portfolio Integrator as an extract, transform, load (ETL) tool that “will enable us to speed integration across Portfolio product versions, integrate Portfolio synchronized products (such as MMS) with new Microsoft .NET-based PortfolioEnabled products, and facilitate the mixing and matching of customer business processes to maximize customer integration options and flexibility.”
This strategy of maintaining strategic, but older, back-end applications on OS/400, while building new functionality on new architectures like Windows .NET, keeps OS/400 shops from being left behind. But it has to be frustrating to IBM and iSeries VARs because it brings no net new workloads to the OS/400 platform, and further relegates it to “legacy” status.
JDA says some of its iSeries customers are applauding the company’s move to .NET. A developer with one of its customers–which it would not identify, except to say it’s a specialty retailer that uses MMS and E3, and has over 375 stores in the U.S. and Canada, and nearly $690 million in annual sales–reportedly said after hearing Peter Charness define the Enabled strategic direction, explain the architecture, and discuss Portfolio Integrator: “I have a much higher comfort level and am able to see our positive longevity with JDA. Not only am I happy to see how we, as MMS users, won’t be left in the dark, but I also now support the new Enabled and .NET approach.”