Lawson Unveils Software for Running Internal Clouds
April 27, 2010 Alex Woodie
Lawson Software yesterday unveiled Internal Cloud Services, a collection of software designed to allow customers to more efficiently run and manage their Lawson products on their own X64- and VMware-based clouds. The software, which ships next month, uses the same cloud management console that Lawson unveiled last month with its Amazon-based External Cloud Services offering, and will eventually work with the vendor’s full line of ERP products.
One of the key benefits of cloud computing is the capability to quickly provision a server with all the operating systems, middleware, and application software that is needed. Hypervisors like VMware’s ESX Server or IBM‘s PowerVM are typically used to size the virtual environments, enabling customers to easily scale the infrastructure up to meet peak demand, and scale it back down or eliminate the virtual environment entirely when it’s not needed.
This is one of the key benefits that Lawson is touting with the upcoming availability of External Cloud Services. With yesterday’s announcement of Internal Cloud Services, which Lawson made at its annual CUE user conference which is being held in San Antonio, Texas, Lawson is offering customers the same types of quick-ramp-up and ramp-down elasticity, but for an on-premise data center as opposed to a cloud provider like Amazon.
There are three main components of Lawson’s Internal Cloud Services offering, including the Cloud Console, the Virtual Appliances, and the Lawson Grid. The only Lawson products to be supported at first are Enterprise Search and Smart Office. Customers must have a storage area network (SAN) in their data center to utilize Internal Cloud services.
The Cloud Console is the management tool that Lawson customers will use to configure, size, and control the two supported Lawson products. This is the same software that Lawson uses with its External Cloud Services. Lawson Appliances are virtual Linux servers that run underneath the VMware ESX Server hypervisor (which is not provided by Lawson in this offering). The Lawson Grid is a lightweight distributed runtime architecture that supports the rapid provisioning and de-provisioning of Lawson Appliances running as Java Virtual Machines (JVMs).
The biggest benefit to customers is the speed of provisioning new servers to run Lawson software, says Jean-Marc DeBaud, chief platform officer for Lawson.
“One of the key challenges of today is if a customer would like to install a copy of our software–whether they’re running on bare metal or in [virtual] containers–they have to do it by hand,” DeBaud says in an interview with IT Jungle. “It can take them days or weeks if they want to install our full suite.” And customers who don’t want to enable all the features must spend even more time.
“With the virtual appliance approach, everything is contained into this file,” DeBaud continues. “It allows you to point, click, and say ‘Please install Enterprise Search and the Cloud Console,’ and it goes through all the steps to load the virtual appliance on top of the ESX hypervisor. And within a very little amount of time, they’re up and running. There is an order of magnitude improvement in their ability to stand up those components today, and in the future our full suite.”
Lawson executives are under no illusion that existing customers will flock en masse to cloud computing. There are still too many uncertainties when a critical ERP system is accessed over Internet connections, particularly when it comes to ERP systems’ heavy I/O requirements. But Lawson also understands that customers are interested in cloud offerings and are exploring ways to integrate them into their business processes, so the St. Paul, Minnesota, company is giving them this choice.
DeBaud foresees Internal Cloud Services being particularly useful in managing development and test environments. He says the Cloud Console gives them a way to visualize what software they have installed in development and test environments, and also to connect to third-party products, such as LDAP, that are required to make them operational. “We think in our industry this basically is a first, where people can visually manage a cloud infrastructure in a seamless way,” he says.
Lawson plans to eventually support all of its products on internal clouds, and not just Enterprise Search and Smart Client. This will include the S3 and M3 ERP suites and its new suite of Human Capital Management software. S3, M3, HCM, along with Enterprise Search and Smart Client, which will be available next month via External Cloud Services, but only in X64 environments.
Lawson eventually plans on supporting other hypervisors and operating systems with its cloud offerings, but DeBaud was cautious about making firm statements. “We have not done that at this point,” he says, “But it is definitely something we will look at in the future.”
Because many M3 customers run on System i hardware and the i/OS operating system, Lawson would need to do some work to offer the benefits of internal or external cloud computing on the Power Systems platform. According to DeBaud, the PowerVM hypervisor running on i/OS has to catch up to the capabilities of PowerVM for AIX.
“The iSeries is a little behind,” DeBaud says. “Let’s be precise–what we really want to leverage is the ability to create a virtual image and be able to stand it up on iSeries very quickly in same way we could say on VMware, Microsoft HyperVM, or AIX. And unfortunately iSeries is not yet there. But IBM is working hard. And we want to bring the same type of principals to those platforms ultimately for sure.”
In other news from Lawson’s CUE, M3 customers now have access to its Customer Active Support Environment, or CASE tool. The CASE tool, which is accessed over the Web from the MyLawson portal, allows customers to log issues with Lawson, and is designed to provide faster response and resolution times. The software, which was built with its Landmark development environment (which has been compared to a 4GL, or a ‘CASE’ tool, as it were), will also work from iPhones, iPads, and Blackberrys, in addition to PCs.