AS/400 Courts SCM ISVs

An effort to boost e-business image

In its continuing drive to promote the AS/400 as a viable platform for e-business, IBM is conducting an extensive campaign to woo supply chain management (SCM) software vendors. Recently the program took the major first steps toward reaching its goal, as leading SCM vendors i2, Logility, QAD and SynQuest announced support for AS/400.

“The significance of these announcements is showing the success of our strategy overall in offering a choice of leading applications for our customers,” says Bill Meinhardt, IBM AS/400 global ERP and SCM segment executive. “It’s reinforcement in (customers’) minds that the platform is strategically viable, that now we’re delivering what we’ve been talking about.”

A July 1999 report by AMR Research predicted that the market for supply chain management technology would reach $18.6 billion by 2003. That’s up from a reported $2.6 million in total revenue for that market in 1998. IBM officials say the company hopes the supply chain vendor initiative will present AS/400 as a useful server for e-business, beyond its traditional role as a back-end application server. In addition to making the specific products available to its users for the first time, IBM hopes promised rate discounts and financing assistance for the new offerings will make e-commerce technology in general more easily attainable for small and medium businesses. IBM will also help provide implementation and integration services.

Meinhardt contends the vendors’ decisions to port their applications to AS/400 was at least in part a result of growing demand from their customers, some of whom already run their ERP applications on the platform and wanted to have the same advantages in SCM that AS/400 provides for ERP. He also said AS/400 presents a good opportunity for those vendors just looking to break into the midsize business market in general.

“Within the general marketplace and within the midrange market in particular we have seen AS/400 become the preferred platform (for ERP),” Meinhardt explains. “(The vendors) were looking to build a presence in the midrange market, and thought the best platform for the midmarket was AS/400. …Clearly the trend in the industry has been that the SCM vendors have found their customers are wanting to expand their ERP systems to manage their operations outside their four walls. These vendors are filling a need that these customers really believed they needed to pursue.”

i2 Sets the PASE on SCM Ports to AS/400

Ken Deats

Another well-known player in the Unix/NT SCM marketplace making the leap to the AS/400 is Dallas-based i2 Technologies, and IBM’s implementation of its PASE technology is a big reason why.

“i2 has made very significant investments in go-to-market strategy that embraces the midmarketplace—the AS/400 is a popular platform in that marketplace,” says Darryll Dewan, i2’s senior VP of IBM Global Business Group. “We’ve been talking about the AS/400 for some time, and it’s a result of the combination of our work and IBM’s interest in working with us to help facilitate the port—and also PASE—and a very new pricing realism. We want to price competitive in the midmarket, and the evolution of the intelligent e-business world I think has left the midmarket out in the cold.”

Dewan adds that i2’s goal is to bring the power of its internal optimization and planning tools to the midmarket and provide those customers with the intelligence to fully embrace the B2B marketplace. “It’s our believe that companies no matter how big they are, need the capability and functions that’s within our core technologies in order to really embrace and capitalize on the intelligent e-business world,” he adds. Those technologies include i2’s RHYTHM Supply Chain Management tool and its subprocesses, Factory Planning, Demand Planning and Demand Fulfillment. “Our core applications that we’ve been selling for some time.”

As to implementing those tools under PASE, Dewan states that the products will run as effectively as they run on Unix. “The one question that comes up all the time is, ‘Tell me about performance.’ Our early tests show that performance is competitive … to what else we’re running [on],” he says. “I think what this really does is that it presents a unique opportunity to the very loyal and diehard AS/400 customers which frankly are the ones that are going to participate in this B2B world.”

Dewan adds that i2 is in the process now of working with its beta sites, and he expect to roll out products as the year goes on with “big bang announcements and general availability toward the second half of this year. We have a roadmap that’s going to release the products, maybe not one product at a time, but it’s pretty well laid out.”

Manufacturing Manager, from SynQuest Inc., is one of the new supply chain applications being ported to the AS/400. Chris Jones, SynQuest’s executive VP for marketing and corporate development, describes the product as a “production-centric” manufacturing planning and execution application. The software monitors and runs shop floor processes and provides an optimized plan to meet customer delivery dates for the lowest cost in the shortest cycle time, which can be dynamically changed as production circumstances change. While some of the ported applications, specifically the offering from i2, take advantage of IBM’s Portable Application Solutions Environment (PASE), SynQuest’s product runs natively on the 400 and supports DB2/400.

“This is not a translated system. This is not sitting on top of the 400—this is running on the 400,” Jones says. “By being native on the 400, from an operations point of view or what have you, people know what they’re looking at.”

Jones attributed SynQuest’s decision primarily to the company’s push to make its applications—which currently run on Unix and NT servers—as platform-neutral as possible. With previous OS/400 releases, SynQuest had not been able to consider the possibility of porting its applications due to constraints—such as file size limits—inherent in the platform. Recent efforts by IBM to eliminate such restrictions were crucial factors leading up to SynQuest’s product offering on the 400, according to Jones.

“On the e-series they’ve really made some improvements that make it possible,” Jones adds. “The combination of IBM’s technology changes and our focus—it really made sense.”

He also agreed at least to an extent with IBM’s Meinhardt regarding rising customer demand for the capability to run their applications on the platform, saying AS/400 users are “a largely under-served market.” Combined with the fierce loyalty of AS/400 users, Jones says, the high demand for more SCM offerings meant it wasn’t too difficult to get customers on board. He added that when SynQuest contacted Chesapeake Display & Packaging, a Richmond, Va.-based merchandiser who became the first customer to implement SynQuest’s SCM on AS/400, “It took one phone call to get them to help us out.”

Although IBM continues its effort to bring more SCM vendors on board, not all are receptive to the idea of reconfiguring their applications to run on the 400, says Meinhardt.

“Whether they’ve decided they don’t want to expand into the midmarket, or they’re interested in a certain type of technology and AS/400 was not the technology they were looking for, some negotiations just don’t go through,” he explains.

For now, the division is turning its attention to the task of attracting vendors who offer supply chain execution products. Meinhardt says the company believes it has “a very strong portfolio now on the supply chain planning side”, but is lacking in the area of execution, with only two of the top 10 vendors running their applications on AS/400.

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