| Front Page | News Headlines | Technical Headlines | Planning Features | Advanced Search |


Jeffrey Lyon
General Manager
OpenERP Solutions


October 2004

Planning Future Resources for 3000 ERP

Jeffrey Lyon wants to offer HP 3000 ERP sites a backstop for their past and a target for their future. The general manager of Speedware Corporation’s latest operating group, OpenERP Solutions, Lyon says the company which purchased the eXegeSys customers, developers and support staff in late August intends to let sites remain on their HP 3000s as long as there’s any profit left in supporting the eXegeSys eRP application, which was once HP’s MM and FM MRP software.

eXegeSys sold off its applications and customers recently, and OpenERP wants to do more than maintain the 3000 customers who can’t move away from the platform. The company will also help companies migrate their systems to non-3000 platforms, as well as sell the OpenERP application to the sites that want to replace rather than migrate. The alliance built between eXegeSys and the Support Group, inc. remains in place, to give MANMAN sites another option for any migration in the future.

Lyon started off in aerospace designing ERP systems, then joined Westinghouse to work as a development engineer and moved to IT — at a repetitive manufacturing shop driven by an HP 3000. He then became an independent IT consultant and contractor in Western Pennsylvania, an area rife with small manufacturing companies. We wanted to know how his software company can make 3000 support add up today, when ERP firms like SSA Global have developed a taste for consolidating 3000 sites like those MANMAN users. We spoke by phone during the week just after the $1.85 million acquisition was announced.

How are you going to balance the diverse needs of the HP 3000 customers using the eRP application: those who need to migrate versus those who want to homestead?

For customers who want to stay, that’s great. We’ll support them as long it makes sense to support them, and that will be as long as we’re making any kind of profit on that. They are happy with what they have. We have customers using the eAM [asset management] product in ways that we never thought they would.

We also have customers who are interested in leaving the 3000, but they have hundreds of thousands of lines of home-grown COBOL, SPL and Pascal that they’ve written around eXegeSys eRP. Until this point, that would have been a very difficult rewrite. But Speedware has wonderful migration tools, so OpenERP Solutions can handle the migration to a more open platform.

Finally, we also have people who are looking to go all-open. They want open databases and open architecture, Windows clients and Macintosh clients, Linux clients, AIX and HP-UX clients. And the neat thing about our OpenERP product is that it will support all of that. It’s completely platform indifferent when it comes to both client and server.

How does Speedware’s new division hope to improve the life of the 3000 site that is using eRP?

Not only are we experts in OpenERP, but we’re experts in eXegeSys. We are mapping data back and forth with Speedware’s DBMotion and Eloquence.

What assets have you acquired from eXegeSys to become experts in eRP?

We’ve taken over the 3000 line from them, the technical and support staff for eRP 3000, and the eAM line. eXegeSys Inc. kept behind the developers that are working on the eXist Anywhere platform, and the eXegete Client. We have support people, we have the developers, we have the sales and marketing staff, and their professional services people in our office right now. We did not assume we could look at 18 million lines of source code in a couple of weeks and get it down pat.

Did you have to set up an office or move them?

Our Enterprise Computer Systems office in Salt Lake City is about five miles away from eXegeSys, so we grabbed a couple of U-Haul trucks and moved everyone over — and so Day One was a productive day for these guys.

Why were you looking at eXegeSys in particular?

We look for all kinds of ERP companies. The fact that eXegeSys was on the 3000 was great for our Speedware Ltd. division. We know that market space very well.

We feel that we have a relatively unique opportunity here. We have great new technology for ERP customers. We can help them migrate, or we’re among the dwindling list of vendors who will support the 3000 as it sits.

Are you looking at the entry into the 3000 ERP space as a way to purchase migration opportunities, or to help the customers maintain what they’re running?

What we’re trying to get across to the customers is that we’re certainly not going to discontinue support for the eRP 3000 application because we want to push them someplace else. If they’re happy there, we’re happy to keep them there. If they need a long-winded migration solution, then before we’d even touch the ERP solution we’d bring in Speedware.

I hate to use the S-word, but we’re very synergetic over here, with Speedware. Because of that we can come together seamlessly to help a customer move off in the manner they want to — if they want to — and on the timeline they want to.

Did you also take on the re-engineered versions of the eXegeSys products, those written for non-3000 platforms?

Yes. There are two technology pushes at eXegeSys where we acquired the assets. The most interesting one was the eRP/mp and eAM platform. ExegeSys ported that to their own environment, eXist Anywhere, and we do have eAM NG [Next Generation] and we have active contracts for that and are installing it today.

The second technology push was what eXegeSys was calling Bridgework, a port of the MPE ERP solution to more open platforms. That’s a work in progress. We’re evaluating that, and the amount of time it’s going to take to finish that. We’re evaluating the customer base’s need to take the technology from eRP and apply it to an open platform.

What’s the alternative to finishing that work?

Going towards a truly open platform, such as OpenERP. Regardless of what our evaluation is, that [open platform eRP project] remains a work in progress.

So will you be offering an open platform solution based on that eXegeSys work?

Well, we offer a solution today. OpenERP is a solution for the overwhelming majority of our customer base. We licensed OpenERP from another vendor.

Your support for clients and servers is pretty broad — enough to include OS/X. Why include a Macintosh platform?

We strive to find whatever niche and monopoly we can, and OS/X is certainly one of them. Our OpenERP solution can natively support OS/X, both as a client and a server. In fact, my development box is a Macintosh.

What’s not a surprise is where they show up. We come across mom-and-pop firms that have grown up, and because they started without an IT department, they purchased Macs, because they’re almost self-healing and self-managing. When they become a 20-40-person shop, they’re using Terminal Services and trying to get Windows applications to run, and there are very few ERP applications native to the Mac.

What is left behind at eXegeSys that’s important to supporting your ERP solutions for 3000 customers?

ExegeSys will support us with the eXist Anywhere environment. Our eAM next-generation product is written to eXist Anywhere, and eXegeSys will continue that technology, and we have a license to use and to purchase it and resell it from and for eXegeSys.

What’s the customer base telling you about what it wants to do?

We’ve finished touching our customer base in the US. We’re getting equal traction on all three options. It’s about a third and a third and a third: The customers who want to move to something completely open, those who have a lot of homegrown code and want to migrate, and customers who are happy with what they have and don’t want make a change.

What case do you build for letting those customers stay on the 3000 if they want to do so?

When you take a look at the entire Speedware Corp. holdings, and specifically at Speedware Ltd., we are not as technology-focused as we are customer-focused. We don’t have a technology bias. We look at Java, .NET, the iSeries AS/400, and see that technology is a means, not an end.

You support the iSeries with your ERP solution?

Yes, on the server. If you look at the iSeries, you can see that IBM has absolutely committed to not end of life-ing that platform anytime soon. It’s as sticky as the HP 3000 is with customers. The AS/400 might even be stickier; people get them and do not want to leave.

So you’re creating an opportunity for the HP 3000 customer who might want to leave their platform for ERP on the iSeries?

[Laughs] You’ve obviously bugged our offices.

But we’re not just providing a migration solution. We’re doing a couple of things. The first day I talked to my new employees [from eXegeSys], I talked about the word legacy — how I hated that word because of the connotation of old and dusty. Legacy systems are crucial systems. There are these customer bases that have been largely ignored by Microsoft, let’s say, because the migration away from them is a significant effort. We intend to make that migration as painless as possible — if they want to do that. I want to reiterate that.

SSA Global has done a lot of acquiring in ERP over the last two years. Now they’re advising their customers to move to a common solution. What assurance do you give your customers that will not happen?

That’s not us. That is the classic technology bias. You can see that they’re buying customer bases and generating a lot of professional services to get these customers over to a single platform.

Over the course of the last couple of days we’ve talked to customers who say, “Yeah, I know what comes next. You’re going to end-of-life my HP 3000 platform.” We tell that we’re not going to do that — it would not make you a happy customer.

The eXegeSys product was developed around the idea that it’s heavily customizable. The level of developer effort required to maintain it on the 3000 platform is very little. The majority of the difficult business logic was developed by the customers. I have no interest to take my customer base and shake it to see what falls out. I can make money and do well within that small profit center if I keep them happy.

What will you recommend to the 3000 customers who want to continue with their ERP products beyond 2006, and will need to make a decision about system support?

Right now we’re reselling HP’s hardware and software support for these customers, but I’m sure you have a list as long as your arm of third party vendors who are very eager to take over that support. We all know the 3000 isn’t going anywhere. It works too well, and the customers are too happy with the platform.

Copyright The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved.