At the IFS World Conference 2012 in Gothenburg, Sweden, it was interesting to notice that Microsoft was the diamond sponsor of the conference, while IBM and Oracle were platinum sponsors.
Currently, IFS Applications runs solely on Oracle database, while the presentation (client) side and prepackaged business intelligence (BI) are Microsoft-centric (the IFS Web client also supports Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome browsers). Where IFS offers more openness and choice is in the middleware/app server layer by supporting IBM WebSphere, Oracle Weblogic, and Red Hat’s JBoss products based on the Java Enterprise Edition standards. Microsoft Windows, Unix, and Linux are supported OS platforms.
During his keynote presentation, IFS CEO Alastair Sorbie said that IFS should facilitate rather than frustrate customers—he gave a sobering example of two major banks in the UK that recently had to abandon their merger because of their incompatible IT systems.
Especially interesting has been IFS’s long-standing relationship with Oracle. While the two companies keep on duking it out for ERP and field service management (FSM) deals, especially in asset-intensive industries (where Oracle has JD Edwards, Siebel, and E-Business Suite offerings), both vendors claim an extremely close relationship when it comes to technology (2,500 Oracle database customers that come from IFS are certainly not to be neglected by Oracle). Rumor has it that long ago, when IFS was going through tough times, Microsoft was interested in acquiring the vendor, even after its acquisitions of Great Plains and Navision. IFS’ focus on large enterprise and the prospect of porting IFS to Microsoft SQL Server were reportedly some attractive points for Microsoft.
Be that as it may be, IFS is a platinum-level member in the Oracle Partner Network (OPN). At the conference, IFS announced that it has earned Oracle Exadata Optimized and Oracle Exalogic Optimized status through OPN. This certification demonstrates that IFS Applications Release 8 has been tested and tuned on Oracle Exadata Database Machine and Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud to deliver speed, scalability, and reliability to customers. By combining IFS Applications with the Oracle Exadata Database Machine and Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, IFS customers will be able to leverage benefits such as faster time to implementation, increased performance, and reduced energy and hardware footprint.
Initial test results showed that IFS Applications Release 8 material resource planning (MRP) batch jobs achieved a 2.5x performance improvement and a 2.2x increase in user transactions on Oracle Exadata Database Machine and Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud. Additionally, IFS Applications 8 achieved a 37x higher compression ratio, resulting in significantly shorter time for daily back-up routines and lowering storage costs.
IFS wants to offer choice to its customers. It is interesting that JBoss was the first app server that IFS was certified for, and many customers opt for that middleware option due to its lower open-source price. But, “different strokes for different folks”—IFS customers have different approaches and needs when it comes to selecting hardware and middleware (given that the database is not a choice). For those customers that do not want to expend their own energy in researching and obtaining an IT stack on their own, this certification on Oracle’s prepackaged stack is a possible option.
Oracle Exadata Optimized and Oracle Exalogic Optimized are part of the Oracle Exastack Optimized program, which allows partners, such as IFS, to leverage OPN enablement resources and dedicated lab environments to help develop, test, and tune their applications on Oracle Exadata Database Machine, Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, and Oracle SPARC SuperCluster engineered systems. This accomplishment by IFS might deliver a desired performance and reliability that customers will inevitably require.
This certification is also significant for enabling IFS to deliver its enterprise suite in a private cloud for some customers. IFS acknowledges the attractiveness of cloud computing and delivery (i.e., handling the varying loads, Internet access, mobile users, etc.), but it will not go the route of a painstaking rewrite of its entire suite. Rather, via Oracle’s private cloud appliance, the vendor offers IFS Applications as a service in North America. On the other hand, via Windows Azure public cloud, IFS has been offering a growing number of IFS Cloud components that are of a generic one-size-fits-all nature, such as IFS Touch mobile apps, 360 Scheduling, Metrix Service Management, IFS Virtual Maps, and IFS RCM Toolkit (reliability-centered maintenance). The latter cloud approach is the so-called software plus services setup, where the on-premise or traditionally hosted ERP suite gets enhanced via the aforementioned cloud services.