Infor, the software industry's third-largest ERP (enterprise resource planning) application vendor after SAP and Oracle, has been building out its own underlying technology platform in a bid to gain more revenue as well as provide customers with easier integration and system management.
The company maintains that strategy is clicking as its ION middleware has become the fastest-growing product in the vendor's portfolio.
Some 900 customers around the world have bought into ION, which was first launched in 2010. Infor's claim of momentum for the product should be placed in proper context, however, since that sales total represents just over 1 percent of its 70,000-strong customer base, a number built up through a long string of acquisitions.
Part of the problem is that not every Infor application release is ION-enabled, and many customers remain on older releases and have no reason to purchase ION now.
Infor is offering customers options for rapid and fixed-price upgrades. "The good news is currently there's no forced upgrade path as sometimes happens in the industry," said Steve Moroski, senior vice president of platform technologies.
The primary use case for ION is integrating Infor application modules. But more than 50 percent of ION customers so far are using the system to connect Infor software to third-party applications from the likes of SAP and Oracle, according to Infor.
ION uses XML-based messaging to allow applications to communicate with one another. All transactions end up stored in a repository called Business Vault, which keeps data consistent and also gives customers a way to run reports and analytics off the aggregated information.
Infor had previously developed integration technology called OpenSOA. But the scope of that effort was to provide basic interoperability between Infor applications deployed on premises, whereas ION works with Infor and third-party applications based both on-premises and in the cloud, according to Massimo Capoccia, senior director of product management.
ION will also play a growing role in other areas, such as Infor's mobile application strategy, according to Moroski.
As part of its technology push, Infor has also rolled out an application development environment called Mongoose, which is used by its internal teams but also available to customers. Mongoose is based largely on Microsoft's technology stack.
One place Infor likely won't go is in the direction of developing its own database, as fellow ERP application vendor SAP did with its much-touted HANA, according to Moroski. But Infor will certainly look to integrate with and support HANA inside its customers' application environments, he said.
Overall, ION is a sensible course for Infor to pursue, according to analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. "ION basically pulls together the go-forward strategy for Infor with integrating all its acquisitions, and also sets them up for a mobile-first and hybrid IT world."