Infor Elaborates on Coleman, IBM i Strategy
October 10, 2018 Alex Woodie
When Infor held its annual Inforum conference two weeks ago, the new AI bot Coleman played a big part, but nary an IBM i word was muttered publically. But that shouldn’t come as a concern to the thousands of companies that rely on the company’s IBM i software to run their businesses, Infor’s IBM i strategy Ross Freeman leader says.
“We heard the same from Syteline customers. They didn’t hear much about Syteline,” says Freeman, who heads up IBM i strategy for the LX, XA, and System 21 ERP product lines. “We have 235 products and we’re all following the same strategy.”
Infor IBM i customers have grown used to the lack of attention they receive from the company’s leaders, Freeman says. While executives of the New York City-based company have been known to call out the IBM i platform at its annual conference in the past, that wasn’t to happen at this year’s show, which took place last month in Washington D.C.
IBM i customers should not expect special treatment from Infor, Freeman says. “Part of the problem when listening to Infor is they say a lot of things at a high level and it’s hard to tell how it applies to any individual product,” Freeman tells IT Jungle. “When you see any announcement related to extend solutions or Infor OS, it probably will apply to IBM [i] products.”
Infor calls Infor OS its “cloud operating platform.” It’s an extension, or a continuation of sorts, to the Infor10 brand it launched in 2011 – which became 10x two years later and then morphed into 10xi in 2014.
Infor OS collectively refers to much of the new development that Infor has completed over the last 10 years or so, including the ION messaging bus, the XML-based business object document (BOD) integration layer, the Ming.le user interface, as well as support for Amazon Web Services JSON-based APIs that make Coleman work.
Infor has rebranded itself as a cloud ERP company, and is pushing its CloudSuite hard. All of Infor’s cloud products that run on AWS naturally integrate with AWS APIs. But so too do the IBM i-based ERP products, as well as on-premise versions of Syteline and LN (formerly Baan), Freeman says.
“The assumption around Infor OS was that it has always been assumed that you would be able to run that in some sort of hybrid environment,” Freeman says. “We can deploy with Infor OS in a multi-tenant Amazon cloud at the same time we have one of our ERPs on premise.”
Infor has three cloud providers who offer its IBM i ERP products in cloud, including HCL, Tata, and Abacus. While the IBM i products will never be offered as a multi-tenant cloud solution, customers can leave the care and feeding of systems and hardware to cloud providers, while still benefiting from the Infor OS strategy, Freeman says.
When Coleman goes GA next spring, Infor customers that run Syteline and LN ERP systems (among others) are expected to be able to benefit from the AI interface, which is designed to help employees be more productive and even handle some things autonomously.
Eventually, IBM i customers will get all the new capabilities offered under the Infor OS banner running Infor ERP systems, Freeman says. “When Coleman is available, we will adopt Coleman as our roadmap permits,” he says. “It’s not on roadmap just yet.”
Ross says Infor has not yet decided when it will add Coleman and other Infor OS items to the roadmaps of IBM i products. “It’s just a question of when each individual product decides to put roadmaps to do whatever integration is required,” he says. “If Coleman is GA next spring . . . it would probably be 2020 before I bothered with it.”
While Freeman views the chatbot aspects of Coleman as a bit of a marketing stunt, he does see real potential benefits from integrating AI technologies into ERP systems, specifically around the potential to automate business processes.
“Is anybody not finding it hard to find people? We’re all finding it hard. That’s why we’ll put Coleman on the roadmap, because that’s the function I’m interested in,” he says. “How about we turn it into another user that’s really fast? That would be something to see.”