Infor on track to trump Oracle in the integration game

Published on the 26/07/2010 | Written by Newsdesk


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Infor may be on track to beat rival Oracle in delivering the Holy Grail of a properly integrated ERP-and-essential-business-applications suite...

The chances of Oracle ever delivering its long-ago-announced Oracle Fusion Apps suite looked slim until the recent announcement that Fusion will feature in September’s OpenWorld conference. In the meantime, mid-market rival Infor could be on track to get there first with its ION integration suite.

Infor has recently released its integration suite, dubbed Infor ION. It says of it: “Infor ION services are designed to enable companies of all sizes to benefit from advanced yet simple application integration, business process management and shared data reporting.” 

However, Infor describes ION as a “strategy” rather than a product, indicating it still has some way to go yet with development of the four ION services – ION Desk, ION Connect, ION Event Management and ION Workflow. 

However, they are all slated for release soon, in late 2010 – as against Oracle’s Fusion Apps, which have been in the making since 2006 – soon after Oracle’s buy-up in the enterprise applications market (buying PeopleSoft, JD Edwards & Siebel).

At the time, Fusion was a concept more designed to placate concerned customers who found themselves part of the Oracle product suite. It was only with the purchase of BEA (Web logic) that Oracle began to release products under a ‘Fusion Middleware’ label in 2008.

Infor has been faced with similar challenges after buying the likes of Syteline, Baan and Geac in one of the largest global acquisition sprees ever in IT, and Infor’s kiwi CTO Bruce Gordon had been working on a SOA strategy for several years which set the foundation for  ION.

ION Desk will configure all ION services. ION Connect is rather interesting in that its job is to share document-based communications and data both in-house and in the cloud (or SaaS, Software-as-a-Service) or as a hybrid of the two. The integration of services and applications delivered by external hosts is considered to be one of the most difficult feats of integration.

Infor’s boast is that its approach to data-sharing “more closely aligns with the way businesses operate in the real world.” It gives the example of businesses functioning by exchanging basic documents like sales and purchase orders.

Infor  ION takes the same approach, says Infor. “Exchanging complete electronic business documents that include all associated data.” 

Compatibility and standards
One of the main comparisons with Oracle’s long-planned Fusion Apps suite is that both products use SOA (Service Oriented Architecture). Infor’s VP of product development Soma Somasundaram says SOA allows for the development of common user-centric interfaces. It also allows for standardisation, using industry-accepted protocols, so applications and data can be ported across platforms without encountering compatibility issues. 

“What the end-user sees is a role-based home page that aggregates the information and presents it in a customised web-format. The user can then drill down, query and generate reports from this single interface but across all the business applications they use.” 

Like ION, Oracle’s Fusion Apps will integrate a suite of products. Both companies have grown by acquisition over the past few years, providing both the need and incentive to integrate newly acquired applications with existing product portfolios, so users have a coherent and usable suite whose elements can talk to each other. Indeed, Oracle has seen its proposed apps suite as a “killer enterprise suite”, embodying the best features and functionalities of its various product lines, including its acquired JD Edwards, PeopleSoft and Siebel products.

But, this was always going to be a big task, says Analyst Ovum’s Dwight Davis. “It’s not just SOA; it’s Web 2.0, integrating business intelligence as a sort of pervasive element of Fusion Apps. They’re making a clear shift from siloed applications to focusing on more end-to-end business processes that flow across the modules.” 

But the shared focus on “end-to-end business processes” doesn’t end here: Fusion Apps, which was initially slated for delivery in 2008, is now expected in late 2010 – roughly the same time as ION. Oracle recently announced Fusion will feature at its September OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.

Infor suites up with Microsoft
Meanwhile, globally Infor has added Microsoft to its mix, saying it plans to integrate the latter’s tools and technologies into its next-generation software and tightly integrate the two. For example, it plans to use Microsoft SharePoint 2010 as a single portal with Microsoft Silverlight providing an “intuitive, graphical interface”. 

Microsoft SharePoint 2010  will provide users with a rich internet experience and Microsoft’s SQL Server is to become Infor’s preferred database, says the latter in a recent press release.

Infor also has plans to deliver its cloud capabilities on Microsoft’s Azure platform during 2011.

Microsoft comments that it sees Infor as “using the Microsoft platform to provide simplicity and flexibility.” 

“Companies want simplified, integrated solutions to help manage their business processes.”

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