Infor feels the lure of Azure as ERP underdog's customers in retail express reservations about Amazon's cloud

Platform is 'tightly' integrated with AWS S3, but now an alternative is needed


Few CEOs are upstaged by their own kitchens but, watching Infor supremo Kevin Samuelson drone on about industry disruption, the spotless gleam of his chrome and white backdrop spoke more to viewers of this week's Infor Inspire virtual conference than he did.

"Doesn't the man own a toaster or a kettle?" the watchful gathering may well have wondered.

Regardless, The Register caught up with Cormac Watters, Infor general manager and head of international markets, to put some meat on the bone of this particularly scraggly carcass of a conference.

Infor is third in the global enterprise application market, and let's be frank, that is the way it is likely to stay, such is the intransigence of Oracle and SAP's user bases. But that does not stop the company trying to move forward.

It has made inroads with cloud applications – seeing growth of 30-34 per cent annually to hit $800m, Infor said – by hitching its wagon to AWS. It "tightly integrates" its application with the cloud infrastructure and uses AWS S3 to support its data lake and reporting, Watters said.

Rather than building infrastructure and databases for its customers, Infor prefers to build industry-specific applications. "We don't want to vertically integrate the entire stack, that's not our strength," Watters said.

Despite the apparent success with AWS, Infor is not wedded to it. The company is now building similar integration with Azure. Some customers are already running the Infor Cloud suite on a bespoke adaptation of Microsoft's cloud platform and Infor expects to launch a standard commercial option in the near future.

"Five years ago we took a pragmatic approach to the investment and we said, 'Let's double down on AWS and get it all working on that.' But now we need to offer an alternative. Some customers get a little bit anxious when they hear 'Amazon', because the company is so powerful in online retail, distribution and wholesale, and they might not want to put data on the AWS platform."

Although customers had proofs of concept on Azure, they were using a mix of technologies. Some were taking a hybrid approach to storage and using AWS S3. Infor aims to release a pre-packed product taking advantage of all Azure's supporting technologies, including its BlobStorage, out of the box, Watters said.

Alexandros Stratis, IDC research manager and head of its European enterprise software group, said customers would appreciate having the option of moving enterprise applications to the cloud "their way" and going with Azure.

Although Infor is not providing an in-memory application database the way WorkDay and SAP S/4HANA do, this is not necessarily a disadvantage for the company, Stratis said.

"One of the things they have been trying hard to do is infuse intelligence in their application with technology such as Coleman AI. So, overall, we shouldn't be judging them or comparing them with SAP and WorkDay in that respect."

Those with long enough memories will know that Infor was born out of the ashes of Baan, once a leader in manufacturing ERP. But it is now forging a reputation of its own, according to Stratis.

"Because it had a lot of legacy and people have associated it with different brands, Infor was suffering from a bit of a visibility problem. But when you look at the amount of innovation that they are trying to put in, the emphasis on user experience, and the additions that are trying to make to the cloud, I think they have a positive future."

Maybe even a bright one, but perhaps not as bright as its CEO's kitchen. ®


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