Infor Makes Mobile, Cloud, IoT, and AI Announcements — But Nothing for IBM i
September 26, 2018 Alex Woodie
Infor made several product announcements at its annual user conference this week, including the introduction of a new mobile client program, several cloud announcements, and the GA date for the AI-based assistant it announced last year. But Day One of Inforum 2018 didn’t feature any new or enhanced software for IBM i, where about 18,000 Infor customers continue to run their enterprise software.
Do you like to “seamlessly glide between applications”? If so, then you’re liable to just love the new Infor Go mobile client, which Infor announced yesterday at the Inforum 2018 conference in Washington D.C.
Infor says its Go client will run on iOS and Android devices and, in addition to the aforementioned seamless gliding, will support single sign-on (SSO) and role-based access to Infor’s ERP, HCM, CRM, and financial management applications (which could run on IBM i), as well as proprietary cloud-based applications customers develop with Infor’s Mongoose development framework (which has nothing to do with IBM i).
We also learned when Coleman, the digital assistant built with artificial intelligence technology that Infor unveiled at the Inforum conference over a year ago, will become generally available. Infor says the product will become available in the spring of 2019, which would be about 18 months after it first announced the product.
Coleman, which is currently in beta tests, will be available for several Infor products, including any products that run on the Infor OS (operating service) platform, which Infor is calling its “underlying foundation of Infor CloudSuite.” The cloud is currently first and foremost in the mind of Infor, which has taken to referring to itself “a leading provider of industry-specific cloud applications,” which is not a good sign for IBM i shops.
Coleman will not integrate with any of Infor’s IBM i products because, as we learned from Infor last year, Coleman requires Amazon‘s cloud-based conversational AI technologies, such as Amazon Lex, to function, and no IBM i software products run on Amazon’s cloud. (That absence of AI in IBM i apps may be a good thing, if Coleman at all resembles Hodges, the annoying mustachioed AI bot that pesters visitors to Infor Web pages.)
There were no product announcements made yesterday that directly benefited the thousands of Infor customers running IBM i packages – including the big ones like the ERP LX (BPCS), ERP XA (MAPICS), and ERP System21, but also older and less prominent ones like PRISM, PRMS, KBM, Infinium products, A+, AutoRelease, some of which have effectively been sunsetted at this point (if not renamed and subsumed into other products (like A+) or effectively turned with X86-based packages (like M3).
The closest Infor got to mentioning anything even remotely connected to the IBM i platform were its announcements around M3, its manufacturing-oriented ERP package. Infor has pledged to support Coleman on M3. However, since the M3 codebase has been rewritten in Java, Infor is no longer tied to the IBM i platform with this product, and is thus able to run it on the public cloud, where cheap X86 servers abound.
Even Infor’s announcement around its new Control Center, which Infor marketing writers describe as “a next-generation supply chain visibility and intelligence solution that enables supply chains to be data-driven, self-learning and consistently reliable,” is hooked into Coleman, which as we learned is hooked into the cloud and thus entirely separate from anything going on in the IBM i apps.
Ditto for Infor IoT, a new offering unveiled yesterday to enable customers to glean value from data generated by sensors and shunted into the Infor Data Lake (another new offering). The Internet of Things solution, like its Coleman and Control Center offerings, is tied to technology running on Amazon Web Services, which means it’s completely disconnected from IBM i.
Infor appears to be going whole-hog for the cloud these days. Other announcements made at the show include Infor Fashion PLM Cloud, which runs on (you guessed it) the Infor OS platform. There is also a cost-accounting solution for the healthcare industry that runs on (wait for it) the Fashion PLM Cloud.
The cloud is definitely fashionable these days, while the IBM i server continues to rack up low ratings in the IT popularity department. Infor has been clear and forceful over the years in encouraging users of its older IBM i-based applications to upgrade to newer applications, preferably on the cloud or industry-standard servers, if they want new functionality.
By all accounts, the company has had some success in getting its customers to migrate off the IBM midrange server. However, there are plenty of stories of customers who have been repelled by Infor’s sometimes heavy-handed tactics, which has forced them to retrench back into the 5250 fold.
For years at least Infor promised to continue to add functionality to the three main IBM i-based products, including LX, XA, and System 21. But that plan seems to have gone by the wayside, because as of yesterday, those products have been scrubbed from its product list web page.
The writing for Infor’s IBM i customers is on the wall: move to the cloud.