informa
/
Commentary

Infor Bets $500 Million On Enterprise App Refresh

Infor cranks out new user interfaces and social and cloud options for its enterprise apps to take on SAP, Oracle and Microsoft.
Infor touts its ability to deliver applications on-premises, in private clouds or on public clouds, but Phillips commented during a question-and-answer session that the company isn't interested in investing in "ping, power and pipe," meaning building data centers. "We'd rather put our money into our applications."

Instead, Infor relies on IBM and Amazon for cloud infrastructure, though Infor handles all application management and provisioning no matter which partner provides the infrastructure. On Monday it made two notable announcements with its cloud partners.

IBM was already a hosting partner, but Infor and IBM announced new deployment modes including public-cloud options on IBM's SmartCloud. "IBM obviously has a lot of System I and Power [Server] capabilities... and they're helpful to us outside the U.S. as well," Phillips said. Several Infor Apps run on IBM System I (formerly AS/400) and Power Series Servers, and IBM's global presence helps because Infor gets more than 40% of its revenue outside of the U.S.

Amazon Web Services is used for public cloud app deployments on the EC2 service, but a new Sky Vault option announced Monday will run ION Business Vault data warehouses on Amazon's RedShift massively parallel processing database service. Business Vaults can grow quite large, so Sky Vault makes large-scale data warehousing easier and more affordable than on-premises warehouses, according to Infor.

Phillips touted Amazon's rapid scaling, "great" provisioning tools and track record on reducing costs. RedShift, he said, makes sense for Sky Vault by virtue of its low-cost -- starting at 85 cents per hour for a single-node with 2 terabytes of storage -- coupled with the fact that many customers already have databases in Amazon's cloud.

"It's a one-click copy command to move that data over to Redshift," he said.

Sizing Up The Competition

In contrast to SAP, which touts a mobile-first strategy as the key route to core application renewal, Infor (like Microsoft Dynamics) is emphasizing modern interfaces on the apps themselves.

Infor has a mobile strategy, too, but it got short shrift here, probably because more has been promised than delivered. Infor has seven native iOS and Android mobile apps to date. New HTML5 front-end interfaces essentially support browser-based viewing on laptops and tablets, but as seen with other HTML5 efforts, it is questionable how much device-native functionality, such as touch and gesture control, you'll get on tablets.

Phillips' spoke often of challenging SAP and Oracle, and his executives touted a mock "Save the People" program, though they were serious in promising to reduce current Oracle PeopleSoft maintenance costs by 20% by way of Infor replacements. Execs also talked about going after would-be Workday customers more aggressively with improved combinations of human capital management and financials apps.

The competitor that Infor encounters more often than executives let on is Microsoft Dynamics, a point confirmed by analyst Ray Wang of Constellation Research. "A lot of new ERP business is going to [Oracle] JD Edwards and Microsoft, but with everything that Infor is doing, a lot of people are starting to consider them," Wang said.

In truth, Infor's biggest competitor is likely complacency among literally tens of thousands of legacy customers who have historically been all too willing to keep ERP systems running for more than a decade without upgrading. Until the last two years, Infor didn't give those customers many reasons to upgrade. But that has clearly changed, and in many cases Infor is going over IT's head and appealing directly to line-of-business executives with new features, functions and those slick new interfaces.