Infor Inc. has achieved something that the likes of Oracle Corp. and SAP could only dream of. That is, it’s successfully transformed itself into a fully-fledged cloud-based software solutions company that, according to Constellation Research analyst Ray Wang, “has delivered” on its promises.
Eager to shed some light on the transformation within the company, Charles Phillips, CEO of Infor, dropped by theCUBE alongside Wikibon analysts Dave Vellante and Jeff Kelly to discuss the company’s switch to the cloud and its ambitions to become a Big Data analytics service provider to its customers.
Phillips explained that one of his motivations for the cloud switch was he wanted Infor to specialize in the applications layer, because that’s where the company adds the most value. He also said he didn’t want Infor to be reliant on on-premise technology anymore.
“The best way to do that… is to adopt open-source and to use the Amazon cloud, so the infrastructure is as near to free as possible,” he said.
Asked by Vellante why Infor had chosen Amazon’s cloud, and if that decision meant it’s software and services were exclusive to Amazon, Philips explained that it was partly due to the simplicity of it all. “There’s lots of choice out there but we decided to fully optimize for the services you have on the cloud to take advantage of things like automation and auto-provisioning,” said Phillips. “You can’t do that on ten different clouds, you have to change your apps and change your APIs, it’s very hard to do. So we decided to pick a good platform where we can have a good partnership – we’re not trying to spread over ten different cloud services.”
Vellante wondered whether or not Infor’s cloud shift had proven problematic, due to the nature of the enterprise – which is a “mass of customizations and one-offs”. But Phillips claimed he was seeing the opposite. “Customers have learned the hard way that doing things that are highly customized is probably a bad idea,” he said. “It’s very expensive and they have to maintain it.”
Infor was finding that most people want standard products now, Phillips explained. He said people want things to be secure and configurable, and that people don’t want to customize anymore. As for those who have customized their applications in the past, most of them did so because they lacked certain features they thought essential. “Now, ten years later their feature is in the product and it’s up to us to show them that. Now they have the attitude and the desire to get away from those customizations,” said Phillips.
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Moving onto the topic of Big Data, Phillips revealed that Infor likes to think of it a little differently to everyone else. “Big Data and analytics permeate everything we do inside of our applications,” he said. “For example we have in-contract analytics where any transaction should be on your screen in real-time. We also have an architecture that lets us know through JSON messages exactly what field you’re looking at so we can give you related information.”
Due to that infusion of analytics everywhere, Infor has decided that what it calls the ‘base analytics’ should be free for its customers. The data is already there and so it lets customers access it. However, Infor also wants to dig deeper into its customer’s data.
“We’re building some advanced analytics for prediction called Sky Vault that will run in the cloud.” Phillips revealed. “Sky Vault is a cloud service for data analytics, basically a collection of specialized databases including Hadoop, Redshift, PostgreSQL.”
Phillips didn’t elaborate too much more on Sky Vault, but he did make clear that Infor has big ambitions in the realm of Big Data.
“We can take the burden [of data analytics] away from customers,” he said. “Let us innovate, let us be the innovater, and we will test things out and make an analytics service in the cloud for you.”