Epicor's Vision and Strategy for Cloud ERP

I recently had the opportunity, during Epicor’s global customer conference, to talk with Chad Meyer, director of product marketing, and he shared with me some of the highlights of Epicor’s vision and strategy for cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP).

Epicor has since 2010 offered a scaled-back Epicor Express Edition of the Epicor 9 (Epicor ERP) solution. The express edition is targeted at smaller businesses and delivered as multi-tenant software-as-a-service (SaaS). The standard and enterprise editions of Epicor ERP are currently only offered on-premise or hosted by the vendor.

The major announcement regarding Epicor’s cloud strategy for ERP is that all Epicor ERP editions are planned to be available as multi-tenant SaaS. The baseline release for Epicor ERP Standard SaaS is planned for the third quarter of 2012 in the United States and Canada and the fourth quarter in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Future development on the Epicor Express Edition will continue. Current plans include introducing Epicor Express in the UK and Australia in the coming months. Epicor already offers industry editions for manufacturing and distribution, and will add a financials edition in the fourth quarter of 2012. Add-on products for document storage, handheld data collection, shipping, etc., are also now available with Epicor Express.

Besides the multi-tenant solutions mentioned above, Epicor provides single-tenant SaaS solutions (Epicor Prophet 21, Epicor Human Capital Management, and Epicor Retail), as well as cloud solutions via partners such as Avalara (sales tax automation), Insite Software (business-to-business [B2B] e-commerce), Convey (tax reporting), Village Green Global (energy reporting and carbon accounting), emarketingsaas.com (e-mail marketing and surveys), and TIE Kinetix (electronic data interchange [EDI]).

The option to transition from cloud to on-premise, or vice versa, will also be available (some smaller customers may prefer to move from cloud to on-premise as their business grows).

In order to extend its ERP cloud offering to enterprise customers, Epicor will use Windows Azure, a cloud computing platform as a service (PaaS), which is flexible and scalable enough to allow for future development and the management of a large number of customers. Besides the Windows Azure operating system and storage, this PaaS offers SQL Azure (a cloud version of Microsoft SQL Server) and AppFabric (middleware to support both cloud and on-premise applications).

In conclusion, Epicor aims to offer both single and multi-tenant cloud options for all editions of its ERP solution on a flexible and scalable platform, which can also allow for integration with partner cloud solutions and on-premise software.  This task should be easier to accomplish for Epicor than for many of its competitors, since most of its products were already streamlined into one consistent offering in 2009. Epicor 9 is not a package or a suite, but a “unified technical platform with a consistent user interface,” as described by my colleague Aleksey Osintsev in TEC’s product certification report.

Even though the level of adoption of SaaS ERP is still relatively low (estimated at 2% of the ERP market by Forrester and 7% by Gartner), most major vendors are preparing for the near future, when the increase in demand may be significant—Forrester estimates an increase of about 20% per year through 2015. With its new SaaS offering for the enterprise, Epicor will be one of very few vendors offering multi-tenant cloud solutions for manufacturing, distribution, and services.
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