Infor goes all-in with Amazon Web Services for cloud ERP

Analyst calls Infor's move a 'vote of confidence' regarding AWS' maturity

Infor is betting big on Amazon Web Services for its cloud ERP (enterprise-resource-planning) software strategy, with plans to begin offering a series of product suites on the company's IaaS (infrastructure as a service).

Dubbed CloudSuite, the software packages will focus on a variety of specific industries, beginning with automotive, aerospace and defense, and hospitality. Later this year, Infor plans to launch a more general-purpose cloud ERP suite on AWS, called CloudSuite Corporate. This offering will include modules for core finance and human resources.

The company also plans to offer analytics, its ION middleware, Mongoose development tools, and other ERP products such as LN, M3 and Lawson through AWS.

Infor's move is a bold step forward, CEO Charles Phillips said in a statement.

"SaaS today refers primarily to HCM [human capital management], CRM [customer relationship management] or another edge application, never to mission-critical business operations," he said. "Infor CloudSuite redefines cloud for the enterprise, delivering the first full suite of business applications purpose-built by industry running in a public cloud through Amazon Web Services."

Work is already underway to move current cloud subscribers over to AWS from Infor's co-location sites. The process will be completed over the next 24 months, according to a spokesman.

One major consideration behind the move is AWS' broad global reach, with services in 10 regions around the world. This provides better scalability and disaster recovery for Infor's software. Infor also gets to take advantage of the work Amazon has done to make its services compliant with local regulations in various regions, which should appeal to risk-averse ERP customers.

AWS and its competitors, such as Google and Microsoft, are engaging in a pricing war that could also help Infor pass some savings along to customers.

"Infor is committed to helping customers reduce their overall IT expense, which is one of the drivers behind Infor CloudSuite on AWS," a spokesman said. "We will continue to identify opportunities to provide further cost reductions as they arise."

Customers' service-level agreements will be managed by Infor. "Our applications currently have 99.5 percent uptime, so any downtime will be rare, but it will be managed directly with customers," a spokesman said.

One observer expressed a measured view of Infor's announcement.

"This is a nice vote of confidence for AWS," said analyst Michael Coté, director of infrastructure software research at 451 Research, via email. "However, I think most SaaS companies would look at AWS as capable of being used like this. There might be questions about pricing long-term, but technologically it's just a stack of middleware running on a bunch of servers."

Given the ongoing pricing war, "Infor has to be thinking that the costs will be cheap," Coté added. "The longer-term hope is that their agility - measured by how fast they can code and releases features to their existing products, as well as modify how current features work - will increase as well. We all know in our guts that after four to five years, software is incredibly hard to change due to the code getting stale, supporting middleware being antiquated, and the difficulty of shifting around the underlying infrastructure. I'm not sure 'cloud' will solve those problems, but hopefully it'll make a bit better."

The move to AWS is just the latest in a series of high-profile decisions by Phillips, a former Oracle president, since taking the CEO job at Infor in 2010.

Phillips has been trying to change private-equity-backed Infor's image from more of a holding company for many acquired ERP products, to an innovative software vendor with modern technology and thinking.

He hired several hundred additional software developers and created an internal design agency called Hook & Loop, which created a next-generation user interface for Infor's applications.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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