InterForm A/S Gets a Boost from Infor Partnership
May 3, 2011 Alex Woodie
InterForm A/S is getting a big chance to show its chops in the U.S. market for output management software as the result of an expanded partnership with ERP giant Infor. The deal involves replacing an outdated and unsupported output management system that’s installed with one of Infor’s IBM i-based applications.
While InterForm isn’t well known in the United States and Canada, its software–which is marketed in North America under the name ArtForm for copyright reasons–is actually used fairly extensively. InterForm COO Peter Sørensen chalks up a large part of that success to InterForm’s 25-year history developing output management software for the IBM i platform, and its 13-year partnership with Infor/SSA/Baan.
Now, InterForm is set to bolster its position in the North American market for IBM i output management software thanks to an expansion of the Infor partnership that will see ArtForm positioned as the preferred provider for CRM AutoRelease, an IBM i-based system that provides shipping control, invoicing, EDI, and release accounting functionality to automotive suppliers.
“Our long partnership with InterForm in Europe has encouraged us to review the ArtForm product to be used with other product lines like AutoRelease in the North American market,” says Michael Spaeth, RVP of development automotive products. “We are convinced that this will deliver to our customers not just a ‘replacement,’ but offers immediately new state-of-the-art functionality.”
The AutoRelease software was closely tied to the JetForm output management software, which was obtained by Adobe with its 2002 acquisition of Accelio. Adobe has ended development of the JetForm and Central Output Server for OS/400 products in favor of its J2EE-based LiveCycle ES2 software. However, Adobe does not support LiveCycle ES2 on the IBM i platform, and the extended support for the last JetForm-era OS/400 product ended in December 2010.
Sørensen says this has presented an opportunity for InterForm, particularly among the 130 or so AutoRelease customers who would like to move beyond i5/OS V5R4. “Due to the fact that they will not have a solution that runs on IBM i 6.1, Infor has asked us to replace that,” he tells IT Jungle.
With a new Java-based version of its core output management product–called InterForm Next Generation, or ArtForm Next Generation in the U.S. market–InterForm is giving customers new platform options as well. Sørensen expects some current and former IBM i shops to adopt the new product, which duplicates most (but not all) of the features of the original AS/400 version of the product and runs on all Java-supported platforms.
“The new Java version is an alternative for those customers who, each year, come to us and say ‘Unfortunately we are leaving IBM i for another platform. We’d be happy to use your product in the Unix or Windows world.’ So far we haven’t had an alternative for these customers,” he says.
Infor and InterForm are collaborating on the new version, which will plug into Infor’s ION framework and utilize XML and service oriented architecture (SOA) connections, Spaeth says. “In the first phase this will deliver printing services to our new ‘LN Automotive’ solution. But of course this is built to work with other Infor systems as well,” he says.
Sørensen stresses that the new Java version is not intended for widespread use on the IBM i server, and is in no way an attempt to get those customers to migrate off the IBM i version of the product.
“The AS/400 has been our core product for more than 25 years and 3,000 licenses, and will be so in the future,” he says. “It is where we have the foundation of the business. To be quite honest the number of customers we have, also the number of partners providing the services and licenses of InterForm, is of course the strength of the business.”
InterForm has close to 10 customers running the new Java version and expects to close more deals in 2011. Sørensen says customers moving to InterForm Next Generation will benefit from a forms conversion process that allows nearly 100 percent of forms created with the IBM i version of the product to run under the new Java version.
There are some limitations, however. The product is currently limited to accepting input via XML, and outputs in a range of formats, including PCL, PostScript, PDF, XML, fax, email, and others. The company aims to provide more inputs, including support for databases and platform specific formats, in a future release.
For more information, see www.interform400.com.