Infor and Abacus Launch ‘System i Cloud’
May 8, 2012 Alex Woodie
ERP developer Infor is getting into the cloud business with its hosting partner, Abacus. Several of Infor’s IBM i-based ERP applications will be offered under the new cloud offering, which will also give customers access to professional services to help them upgrade their ERP software and their IBM i OS. The partners are expected to announce their joint offering, which is called the System i Cloud, during the COMMON conference at the Disneyland Resort in Southern California this week.
Abacus Solutions has been providing cloud hosting through its IBM “i” in the Cloud offering for the last three years. What’s different about the System i Cloud is the focus on Infor’s core manufacturing-oriented ERP packages, including Infor10 ERP Discrete iEnterprise (XA), Infor10 ERP iEnterprise (LX), and Infor10 ERP iBusiness (System21), and the access to Infor technical resources for these apps. By the end of the year, additional ERP packages, including Infinium, Lawson M3, and Daley A+, are expected to be added.
Customers can run production workloads on the System i Cloud, or they can use it for hosting development/test environments, or backup/recovery and high availability environments. Customers can get started on the cloud for just $500 per month. This entry-level setup, which is designed for secondary workloads, gets them one LPAR (i5/OS V5R4, IBM i 6.1, or 7.1) on a four-core Power Systems Model 720 that’s configured with 1,000 CPW of processing power, 4G B of memory, 1 TB of DASD, and 1.5 MBps of network bandwidth. System monitoring is provided from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, and the data is backed up weekly. The cost goes up as customers add processing power, storage, monitoring, and data and application resilience features like data de-duplication, data replication, and high availability.
While IBM i clouds aren’t yet a commodity, it’s getting close. Hosting companies like Abacus are competing to provide the most IBM i bang for the buck, and that’s a good thing for IBM i customers and the cloud future of the platform
But the real value that the System i Cloud brings to the customer is the access to Infor’s technical experts, and the opening of a dialog between the Infor customer and their technology providers about what options are on the table for modernizing their applications and reducing costs and risks, explains Abacus senior iSeries solutions specialist Scott Johnson.
“At the end of the day, the reason anybody’s doing this is to run the application,” Johnson tells IT Jungle. “The whole goal with this is, through a single contract with Infor, they can find out about new alternatives to run their workloads, to modernize their technology, and to tackle budget pressures and staffing and support pressures.”
A big focus of the System i Cloud program is to help Infor customers upgrade from older versions of their ERP systems, which may be heavily modified. “That’s the power of the offering. The Infor professional services team can jump on the LPAR with the customer and start going through their application,” Johnson says. “You need to have an environment where you can test what modifications will come across, and what you don’t need in the new release. We’re trying to provide that short-term interim environment so they can tackle those challenges, and give them the power to migrate with confidence.”
In this manner, the System i Cloud is providing a new twist on an old problem: How to get IBM i (System i, iSeries, AS/400) shops to upgrade their IT infrastructure. IBM and its business partners, including resellers/hosting providers like Abacus and ISVs like Infor, have struggled for the last decade with the question of how best to modernize the extensive “legacy” installed base. At the very least, the System i Cloud provides legacy Infor customers an inexpensive development and test environment for exploring exactly how to proceed with an upgrade. Infor’s Flex upgrade program also figures to play into the mix.
Helping customers upgrade heavily modified applications will be the biggest challenge. “It’s not like there are any cookie-cutter deals where you can say, ‘Here’s the standard roadmap.’ That’s why having Infor involved is so powerful,” Johnson says. The upgrade to IBM i 6.1 and IBM i 7.1 is not as big of a challenge, and is more repeatable, he says.
The deal between Abacus and Infor is not exclusive, and Infor may choose to partner with other IBM i cloud hosting companies in the future. Infor is supporting IBM’s Pure Systems launch, which has a heavy dose of cloud. At the moment, however, Abacus is the only cloud hosting provider involved in the deal.