JDA Plots Course Forward for MMS, and–Surprise–It’s Java
July 15, 2009 Alex Woodie
Retailers that rely on JDA Software‘s i OS-based Merchandise Management System (MMS) have several updates to look forward to in the coming months. While MMS customers will have to wait a bit longer than originally expected for the new GUI in MMS 7.5 that JDA showcased at its user conference this spring, the software giant is already scoping out a version 7.6, which is currently targeted for 2011. The company also clarified its long-term strategy for MMS customers, which is contingent on the Java-based framework obtained with Manugistics.
JDA originally planned to ship MMS 7.5 last month. The biggest new feature in the MMS 7.5 release is a GUI that features a slicker Windows look and feel. JDA is using a template-based approach utilizing screen modernization technology from Infinite Software (formerly California Software) to transition 7,500 to 8,000 screens in the MMS product to the new GUI, and that takes time, explains Tim Grace, product director for MMS.
“We’ve extended the release to make sure that we do an extremely thorough QA [quality assurance] process,” Grace says. “We’ve spent a lot of time on this, so that when this is released, we can feel good about how it functions and how it looks. We’re looking at pushing this date back from June to the fourth quarter of ’09.”
The global GUI isn’t the only new feature in MMS 7.5. JDA is also developing a graphical buyer dashboard that will provide a centralized location for a buyer to perform all the work he or she is responsible for. After logging in, a buyer will be able to enter a purchase order number and see all the information associated with that purchase, including its status and expected receipt. “The key here is that they’ll be able to access this in one place. They don’t have to jump around to different menus or applications within MMS,” Grace says.
JDA is also working on achieving PCI compliance with MMS 7.5. As a developer of software that’s involved with credit card transactions, JDA is required to comply with the Payment Application arm of the PCI group’s Data Security Standard, or PA-DSS.
JDA has created a stand-alone i OS application in MMS 7.5 called Payment Card Management specifically to handle PCI and PA-DSS compliance. With version 7.5, JDA is implementing a token-based method to retrieve credit card information that’s encrypted in the Payment Card Management application. “We stored credit card numbers in our application, but we can’t do that anymore, so this application is taking care of that,” Grace says.
MMS 7.5 will also include a new Stock Locator Inquiry program that will help employees assist customers in finding merchandise in that store or other stores, from the comfort of the point of sale (POS) terminal.
Currently, JDA’s POS products do not have visibility into a retailer’s central MMS database. But with this new program, users will be able to perform a SKU inquiry against MMS data to see–in real-time, or near real-time–what merchandise is on hand in the retailer’s chain of stores, what is on order, and what is in transit to the store or other stores. The program will work with the main POS client, as well as mobile access and BOS client interfaces offered by JDA, the company says.
An interface to Quadrant Software‘s IntelliChief document management system is also available with MMS 7.5. IntelliChief is a Windows product aimed at eliminating the use of paper and paper-based processes in an organization, and is aimed primarily at the i OS customer base.
While the Quadrant interface was developed for version 7.5, customers on older MMS releases will be able to utilize the interface with just a little tinkering by JDA’s professional services organization, says Jean Yatska, group vice president of product management at JDA. “This is one piece of code that is pretty separable and noninvasive,” Yatska says. “It’d be easy for customers to take a piece of code and retrofit it into any versions that they’re running.”
Medium and Long Term Strategies
As the testing of MMS 7.5 wraps up this fall, Grace’s group will turn its attention to MMS 7.6, which is currently slated for the second half of 2011. That release will include more dashboard and workflow enhancements, new order management features, improved POS pricing functionality, and enhancements to the financial and merchandizing functionality, according to JDA’s briefing for IT Jungle.
The long term strategy for MMS has not yet been nailed down. Several years ago, when JDA was pursuing a strategy that focused on consolidating its products onto the Windows .NET platform, the company made a promise to customers to support MMS on the IBM i OS (then the eServer iSeries) platform at least until 2015.
Yatska says JDA never intended that announcement to mean that support or development of MMS would end in 2015. “There was a twist of words and the message didn’t come across as clear as it should have been,” she says. “It was never intended to be, ‘In 2015 we’re gong to stop supporting the product.’ It was meant to say, the product will be supported at least through 2015, and then we’ll have a plan for what we’re doing next, which could be we’re still going to support it for 100 years or we’ll have a replacement strategy.”
It probably seems to some in JDA product management like MMS has been around forever. MMS was one of JDA’s original products when it was founded by Jim Armstrong in British Columbia more than 30 years ago. Since then, the publicly traded company (now headquartered in Arizona) has built and acquired many other product lines to give it a broader reach into the needs of retailers and supply chain participants. MMS customers remain loyal to the product and the AS/400 platform, but MMS’s RPG code base and the AS/400 are no longer central to JDA’s development strategy, and haven’t been for quite a while.
It seems unlikely that JDA would support MMS indefinitely (100 years might as well be infinity when it comes to the IT industry), which means that the company will likely at some point roll out a migration strategy. The company has not formally announced a migration strategy for MMS, but when it does, it will likely be based on the Java framework that JDA obtained from Manugistics, and not the .NET-based Portfolio framework that it was working on prior to the Manugistics acquisition.
“When we acquired Manugistics, they had a strong architecture that was Java- and SOA-based that was up and running in hundreds of customers, and we had one or two customers that were using our [.NET] framework,” Yatska says. “So at that point we made the decision that the Manugistics framework architecture would be the go-forward JDA long-term strategy for the architecture.”
All new applications that JDA is building use the Java and SOA architecture originally developed by Manugistics, Yatska says. “When we get ready to re-write and create a new merchandising system, it will be put on top of that architecture, and built in Java and SOA based,” she says. “We still believe that Microsoft is good for the front-end, so what we’ve done in the architecture is built a rich user interface off Microsoft technology that works with the Java backend…. It’s not that we scrapped Microsoft technology totally. We’re just using it where it makes sense, on the front end.”
So that gives you a glimpse into what JDA will ask its MMS customers to move to at some indeterminate point in the future. Next week we’ll take a look at what’s going on in JDA’s other core i OS-based application suite, the E3 collection of Advanced Replenishment solutions.
This article has been corrected. Tim Grace’s name was originally misspelled. IT Jungle regrets the error.