Java-tized ERP Packages Head to NT Shops
Several major enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors with roots in IBM's AS/400 platform announced Java versions of their products -- opening the door to run on platforms such as Windows NT.
In November, Intentia (www.intentia.com) unveiled one of the first all-Java ERP software packages to hit the market. Version 11 of the company's Movex product will be offered in both Java and traditional code. Both versions of Movex will have the same user interface and user procedures, and will offer features such as Win 32 compliancy and Webtop Dynamic HTML interface.
Intentia, the third largest ERP vendor in Europe behind SAP AG (www.sap.com) and Baan Co. (www.baan.com), may attract more attention in North America as a result of its Java venture. "Java will open doors for them," says Rod Johnson, senior analyst with the enterprise applications strategies group at AMR Research (www.advmfg.com). "There's some mystique around Java that will make people take notice of the applications."
Shortly after the Intentia announcement, J.D. Edwards (www.jde.com), another ERP vendor with an AS/400 history, announced it would ship a Java version of its OneWorld ERP package by the end of 1998. "One-hundred percent of our applications traditionally available in a client/server environment are now available in Java," says Paul Barker, chief technologist for J.D. Edwards. In recent years, J.D. Edwards has released Unix and Windows NT versions of its OneWorld ERP suite. Additional ERP vendors that announced intentions to deliver Java versions of their products include Mapics Inc. (www.mapics.com), an AS/400 ERP vendor, and QAD Inc. (www3.qad.com), a Unix vendor.
Java "will be at the heart of most successful future business systems," predicts Johan Berg, president of R&D for Intentia. "It is designed to provide complete portability without rewriting any code." Java will become a popular language and platform technology for network computing applications by 2002, GartnerGroup concurs. GartnerGroup estimates that more than 60 percent of organizations will use Java in corporate enterprise environments by 2001.
According to Berg, most Intentia sites are AS/400s, a base Intentia intends to continue supporting with its Java version. While Intentia will continue to concentrate on deployments of Movex on the AS/400, the company is also investing in IBM's Netfinity platform, which supports Windows NT. "Our strategy is to support new and existing customers in the choice of future technology and platform," he says.
While Java capabilities exist on the client side of most major ERP applications, this represents a new trend on the server side, which is most prevalent in companies closely linked to IBM, Johnson says. "IBM is betting a lot that Java is going to be what brings the AS/400 into the next millennium. They're also trying to differentiate Netfinity --their NT server -- through its ability to be the Java Virtual Machine for the NT platform."
At this point, however, "none of the elite ERP vendors -- such as SAP or PeopleSoft -- have announced more than exploratory initiatives with Java," Johnson says. "Most of the ERP vendors have focused on the client side of their applications, typically developing extensions to the Web running Java, or a Web interface."
Despite its promise, Johnson says, Java is not completely scalable and still has some performance issues. "The question for Intentia is whether Java can perform and scale at the level you need to run an ERP system, which is far more transaction-based than Web applications," he explains.
Windows NT has been gaining momentum within the ERP space, obtaining about 60 percent to 70 percent of new licenses on NT versions, Johnson says. While Java could make the type of platform irrelevant for many applications, companies implementing ERP may still be concerned with platforms for some time to come, he notes. "ERP is a market that's still driven by names, platforms and brands on the hardware side."