Infor to Embrace Microsoft's Azure Cloud

Infor on Monday will announce plans for applications running on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform, deepening the vendors' already close partnership and adding momentum to the industry's shift away from on-premises ERP (enterprise resource planning) software.

Infor on Monday will announce plans for applications running on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform, deepening the vendors' already close partnership and adding momentum to the industry's shift away from on-premises ERP (enterprise resource planning) software.

The strategy will see next-generation versions of Infor applications, including for expense management, start landing on Azure in 2011.

Azure applications will also employ Infor's recently announced ION framework for data sharing between applications and BPM (business process management), allowing them to work in concert with on-premises software.

Infor is also using Microsoft's SharePoint and Silverlight technologies to build out a new user interface called CompanyOn, which will give its many application lines a common look and feel. CompanyOn will be a central home for BI (business intelligence) reports and dashboards, and provide ties into third-party sources such as LinkedIn.

Monday's announcement comes a few weeks after Infor said it would essentially standardize product development on the Microsoft stack.

Overall, the partnership has benefits for both vendors, said Altimeter Group analyst Ray Wang.

"It was a huge coup for Microsoft because it shows large ISVs [independent software vendors] are still willing to bet on the Microsoft platform. It's also good for customers, in that now people are on a standardized platform, and a platform that has a future. "

Those users will benefit from the vast pool of system integrators, ISVs and developers already working with Microsoft technologies, Wang said.

But the tie-up also raises questions for other Microsoft partners, such as Epicor, which has also embraced Redmond's stack and was an early adopter of Azure, 451 Group analyst China Martens said via e-mail.

Moreover, there's the question of "how all this embracing of Microsoft's Azure and other infrastructure by third-party ERPs affects [Microsoft] Dynamics partners," Martens said. "Does it give them more options in terms of whose apps they can sell and link into, or does it put them under more pressure to create Azure versions of Dynamics, given that Microsoft doesn't appear to have plans to do so itself?"

For Infor, it made more sense to target Azure than other players in the market, said Soma Somasundaram, senior vice president of global product development at Infor.

Infor could have gone with Amazon Web Services if its only requirement was pure IaaS (infrastructure as a service) with which to deploy its applications, he said. "But the downside is, it's not a platform, it just provides [resource] elasticity."

The company also looked at Salesforce.com's Force.com, he said. "It's a very good platform to build multitenant applications, but the problem is you have to build everything from scratch." Infor already had richly featured applications, "and we want to be able to deploy those," he said.

In addition, Infor has Java applications as well as ones that leverage Microsoft .NET, and Azure supports Java deployments, he said.

However, he termed Azure "somewhat of a new entrant" to the market, and said Infor is working with the company on "certain aspects that will let us leverage it better than now."

Infor will sell the Azure applications in multitenant form, wherein multiple customers share the same application instance with their data kept separate. This approach saves on system resources and allows upgrades to be pushed out to many customers at once.

But Infor will also run dedicated instances for companies that desire them, he said.

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

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