Archive for March, 2010

Cloud Control Panel is the New Channel for Hosted Apps

March 29, 2010

Apart from the fact that global sales of the Cortex V8 Cloud Control Panel are at an all-time high, there is another aspect of this product that I find quite exciting. That is, the growing channel-to-market for hosted applications that is offered by Cortex’s expanding base of Cloud Service Providers around the world.

Cortex is used by Cloud Service Providers to provision and manage applications, services and infrastructure (such as virtual servers, web servers, back-up systems, DNS etc) that they deploy in their Clouds. Without Cortex, the Cloud Providers would either need to hire an army of system engineers to manually provision and manage their hosted offerings to their customers, or they would need to develop their own bespoke Cloud Control Panel. Cortex is popular because both of these alternatives are potentially very costly and involve significant business risk.

Not only is the base of Cortex users growing, but the base of supported applications is also growing rapidly. Cortex’s main “bread and butter” applications are Microsoft Hosted Exchange, SharePoint, Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop, MS SQL Server, MS IIS, MS CRM, Blackberry, Backup Agent and Hyper-V or XenServer. These are common to most Service Providers, but more and more the envelope is being stretched to include ERP, CRM, Accounting, Payroll, Hosted Office and other business applications.

Cortex provides an API/SDK, so that third parties can add support for other applications. Software companies around the world are realizing that getting their applications added to the Cortex application list gets them potential global exposure through Cortex’s expanding user base.

From another perspective; the increasing base of Cortex’s supported applications is also opening up new channels to market for its Cloud Service Provider clients. Cortex’s delegated-administration capability lets application resellers or channel partners have their own branded Cloud Control Panels from which they can provision and deploy hosted applications on demand – selling the services of the Cloud Providers in the process.

So I believe that the Cortex Cloud Control Panel is the connection between two worlds – the Cloud and Software Channel Businesses (such as ERP & CRM). Exciting stuff!

Introducing Datasquirt

March 25, 2010

I have to be careful about what I say about Datasquirt because it’s a publicly listed company on the Australian stock exchange (ASX:DSQ) and being a non-executive director and chairman, there are strict rules about what I can and cannot say, without making an announcement to the ASX.

What I can say is as follows; 🙂

Firstly, I have to say that Datasquirt is a cool company, made up of people who are passionate about what they do. Datasquirt’s product is called CONTACT and it’s a SaaS, Web deployed Communications Console for Corporate Businesses to enable their Contact Centers (formerly Call Centers) to interact with their customers, suppliers or staff using SMS text, Instant Messaging, email, fax etc.

I was one of the founders of Datasquirt and so my involvement dates back to when the company started up in 2001. This was soon after I (and some of the other Datasquirt founders) sold our previous business, Exonet.

In the early days we did a lot of experimenting to see how SMS Texts could be used for business purposes. After several years of building custom SMS applications for various industry verticals, we started to see what common functionality everyone wanted and realized that all the big customers had Contact Centers – so we designed and built CONTACT as a product to satisfy this market need.

Being web deployed, CONTACT can be run from any browser on the Internet, so requires minimal effort by the customers’ IT departments to get it up and running. The product integrates with the customer’s internal databases such as CRM, ERP etc and has advanced logic algorithms to pre-process messages automatically and/or distribute them to applicable call center operators. Templates and automation facilitate a speedy response to incoming messages and advanced reporting functions enable all types of reports and analysis – including the types of reporting normally expected in corporate contact centers.

In today’s world of advanced and instant world-wide communications, it is more important than ever for businesses to engage with the new communication technologies and new social media types like Twitter, Linked-In, Facebook etc. Accordingly, these are exciting times for Datasquirt and its product CONTACT which empowers corporate business customers to communicate directly, instantly and intimately in the new communications age!

Watch this company this year!

SAP Business One – Solution Partner Advisory Council (SPAC)

March 25, 2010

SAP Business One Solution Partner Advisory Council (SPAC) in Copenhagen, May 2008.

SAP Business One is a very successful, SME-focused Business Management / ERP software package that is sold through reseller partner channels throughout the world. I think of it as an SME ERP “platform” because it has an excellent set of API’s for third-party developers / ISVs to develop add-on solutions that look and feel as if they are part of the core Business One package.

The fact that SAP Business One is a developer-friendly, global ERP platform for SME businesses has helped it build up a portfolio of over 500 add-on solutions, built by over 300 ISV or “Solution Partners”. My company Enprise Software is one of these Solution Partners. We are based in New Zealand, yet sell our Job Costing solution all around the world, through SAP’s partner channels.

Given that partner-built solutions (both industry vertical and horizontal) are such a big part of the SAP Business One value offering, it was deemed necessary to set up an advisory council of leading Solution Partners to advise on policies and act as a sounding board for SAP Business One executives.

The SAP Business One Solution Partner Advisory Council (SPAC) was formed in December 2005 and was made up from about 12 of the top SAP Business One Solution Partners from around the world at that time. One of the first tasks the council set itself (in conjunction with SAP) was to define the council’s mission statement. The following statement was constructed back then and remains in place today;

“Maximize the success of SAP’s partner community by driving change, innovation, and ownership of the global SME market.”

Since its creation, the SPAC has worked collaboratively with SAP to:

  • Define and prioritize business requirements for product enhancements
  • Develop a collaborative engagement model for SSP’s and VAR’s to more effectively sell SAP and partner solutions
  • Establish effective release policies that enable SAP and its partners to ensure consistent, quality upgrades
  • Modify solution certification processes & criteria to better suit market needs

I was fortunate to be one of the founding members of the SPAC in December 2005 and today I’m honored to be its Chairperson.

Current members of the SPAC are;

SAP executives specifically and regularly involved with the SPAC are;

  • Jim Kofalt
  • Greg Robinson
  • Ralf Mehnert-Meland

If you would like to communicate with the SPAC, please contact me or one of the listed members, or enter a reply to this article.

Cortex Provisioning Optimizes ERP Cloud Delivery for Partner Channels

March 24, 2010

A combination of strategic features in EMS-Cortex’s “Cortex version 8.x” Provisioning System and Citrix’s new XenApp and XenDesktop product lines enables Managed Service Providers to add significant value to the offerings of existing global SME-focused ERP Partner Channels. The combined technologies enable complex ERP applications to be delivered in a fast, templated, repeatable, “cookie-cutter” approach which is provisioned and managed on-demand by the ERP partner and/or the customer’s IT department from their own branded provisioning portal.

The Cortex product enables Service Providers to delegate administration of provisioning and management of hosted solutions to resellers and reseller channels. It can also provision from a quick & simple process, the ERP application together with a selected template database, vertical solution add-ons, virtual servers, SQL database server and other business support applications such as email, SharePoint, CRM, VOIP etc. This facilitates up-sell opportunities for the ERP partners to sell a complete Cloud based offering, as well as the ability to quickly deploy temporary demonstration and pilot test environments.

Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop technologies enable Windows applications (most of the popular SME ERP applications are of this format) to be deployed through the Internet in a similar way to web-based applications. Furthermore, Citrix XenServer (or Microsoft Hyper-V) enables the full virtualization of each customer’s Private Cloud, which means the ERP Partner can customize the ERP solution in a similar way to an on-premise configuration.

The end-result is a win-win-win situation for the customer, the ERP Partner and the Cloud Provider.

The customer benefits from reduced capital outlay, a quicker time to value and a more professionally managed environment for mission critical servers and databases.

The ERP partner benefits from faster, repeatable, cookie-cutter deployments giving a known and easily accessible operating environment – meaning quicker delivery times, easier support access and the ability to up-sell complementary Cloud services.

The Cloud Provider or MSP gets a new channel to market where ERP channel partners are now selling their Cloud services.

My prediction is that over the next 12 months we will see a dramatic shift to the Cloud with SME ERP deployments. EMS-Cortex, Citrix and Microsoft will be key players in making this happen.

Multi-Tenanted ERP Applications Outflanked by Virtualization

March 23, 2010

In earlier days of Cloud Computing, there was an industry-wide presumption that all applications delivered in the Cloud needed to be multi-tenanted in order to achieve the cost efficiencies of a shared infrastructure. Today that is still more or less true, except that virtualization technology and server hardware has improved to the extent that similar platform sharing efficiencies can be gained through virtual environments for single tenant applications. In effect, virtualization gives the single tenanted application much of the benefit of a multi-tenant application.

In the case of relatively simple applications like email, web servers, banking applications, small business accounting, payrolls etc, I would suggest that the multi-tenant model is still the more logical, cost-effective design. Anywhere that there is a high degree of similarity of function between users, suits multi-tenanting because at the end of the day, all users are using the same instance of the same system.

However, for more complex systems where there is a relatively high degree of customization and integration to other external systems, I believe that the multi-tenant design becomes difficult, if not impossible to operate successfully. This is certainly the case with ERP systems for medium to large enterprises.

The most difficult challenge to multi-tenanted ERP systems would have to be version upgrades and the necessary change control processes required from the customers’ perspective. ERP upgrades require testing, sign-offs, documentation changes, user training, checking and updating reports and customizations etc. In short, an ERP system can only be updated for a customer, once these processes have been completed and signed off. So how do you manage that if you have many customers sharing a single instance of the ERP application?

Consider instead the option of a virtualized environment. Under this model, each customer has their own virtual server(s), running their own instance of their ERP software (plus other applications) all sitting on a shared infrastructure within the data center. Version upgrades can be performed at the customers’ pace as and when they are ready and their change-control processes have been completed. Cost efficiencies still apply, because the infrastructure is shared (in effect multi-tenanted at an infrastructure level instead of an application level).

I have tested this argument with many colleagues in the ERP industry and I haven’t yet found anyone to disagree with what I’m saying.

Why are the large ERP companies investing so heavily in multi-tenant ERP? Perhaps they didn’t foresee the rapid advent of virtualization.

What are your thoughts on this?

Introducing Enprise New Zealand

March 22, 2010

Enprise New Zealand was originally the direct-sales division of Exonet International Ltd, which was the developer of the Exonet SME ERP Package, now owned by MYOB and renamed as “MYOB EXO”. Exonet was founded by myself, along with Maurice Bryham and David McKee Wright. For a more complete story of Exonet/MYOB EXO, refer to the Exonet Story web site.

Enprise separated from Exonet (who at the time were owned by Solution6) in late 2002, following a management buy-out of the division by Elliot Cooper, Leanne Graham and myself. Included in the Enprise buy-out transaction were all the largest and most complex Exonet customer relationships, which gave us an excellent foundation to build our new business on.

Since establishing Enprise New Zealand as a stand-alone business in 2002, we have built up a customer base of over 420 SME business customers, hired over 50 staff, developed many add-on solutions for Exonet and opened branches in Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Christchurch.

In addition to this Enprise New Zealand has been the foundation business for the “Enprise Group”, which has in turn started up and acquired Enprise Software and EMS-Cortex respectively.

Enprise New Zealand is today the largest MYOB EXO reseller in New Zealand (and possibly Australia) and is in the process of building up a complete nationwide network, with localized sales & on-site services backed up by a centralized phone & web support service. This concept of a local presence connected to nationwide infrastructure, combined with the deep product knowledge inherent in Enprise’s role in the development of MYOB EXO, gives our customers a level of service that is second to none.

Watch out for my future posts on Enprise New Zealand as this business continues to expand…

Introducing EMS-Cortex

March 20, 2010

EMS-Cortex is a business unit of the Enprise Group, based in Avondale, Auckland, New Zealand and very much focused on delivering its Cloud Provisioning system “Cortex” to the Hosted Service Providers of the world.

Cortex is fast becoming a very important and popular product within the world of the largest Hosted Service Providers and is working in close partnership with software giants, Microsoft and Citrix to deliver cutting edge virtual cloud infrastructure solutions.

As CEO of the Enprise Group, I’m very proud of EMS-Cortex and the amazing progress it has been making in the global world of the Cloud.  The Cortex team are extremely dedicated and talented and the product is without doubt the world leader in its class.  We are in fact now stretched to keep up with global demand for the product and you will find Cortex customers amongst the largest, leading service providers in every corner of the world.

People outside the Hosting industry regularly ask me the simple question, “What does Cortex do?” and I still feel quite challenged to construct a simple answer that is easy to understand yet still technically accurate.

Below is my best effort to date to describe what the Cortex product is;

Cortex is a browser-based software package used by Cloud Providers, Telcos, Internet Hosting Companies and Large Corporations to manage and automate the provisioning of hosted applications, hosted services, infrastructure, customers and users in their hosted environments.

Without a product like Cortex, these businesses that manage large numbers of users, services, applications etc would require a large team of network engineers to manually manage, configure and install applications, user accounts, passwords, environments, virtual servers etc.  Cortex automates all of this and makes it quick and easy.

Applications most commonly provisioned by Cortex are Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, CRM, Blackberry, Citrix Desktops, Microsoft IIS, SQL Server, Backup Agent, Hyper-V and other business applications including CRM, ERP, Payroll etc. An SDK is available to enable third parties to add their own software to the Cortex offerings.

Cortex portals, complete with on-line web store are typically configured to look like part of the Service Provider’s own web site and can optionally enable customers and resellers to provision their own applications, systems and users.

Stay tuned for my future posts on EMS-Cortex, because some exciting things are going to happen in this business this year…

EMS-Cortex Web Site

Introducing Enprise Software

March 20, 2010

Along with Enprise New Zealand and EMS-Cortex, Enprise Software is a business unit of the Enprise Group, which is based in Avondale, Auckland, New Zealand.

The Enprise Software business was created in early 2004 when Enprise New Zealand came across SAP Business One in a competitive situation when looking at SME ERP solutions for a prospective customer. We were impressed with SAP Business One and the fact that it came from one of the biggest and most respected names in the world ERP market. We also noted that SAP Business One did not include a Job Costing module.

From our previous business experience of developing and marketing an SME ERP Package called Exonet in the Australasian market, we held a strong belief that a Job Costing module would be applicable to between a quarter and a third of all SME ERP sales. The SAP Business One package therefore looked like it held an exciting opportunity for us to develop a SAP Business One Job Costing Module and market it to the world through the global SAP Business One partner channel.

We were impressed with the technical structure of the Business One product because it had Database and User Interface APIs which enabled us to build our Enprise Job Costing module “inside” the SAP Business One Product, using the same user interface and data integration. The result would be that end-users would be potentially unaware that Enprise Job Costing was not in fact part of the original SAP Business One product.

Upon recognizing this opportunity, we wasted no time in hiring Lita Teng, one of the finest software developers we knew and who was also the first programmer I’d hired in my first company Orbit Software. Lita, together with Enprise co-founder Elliot Cooper (who designed much of Exonet’s Job Costing functionality) started working on designing and building Enprise Job Costing for SAP Business One. It was an experienced team working in a product area they knew well. Elliot’s financial background and expertise gave the product a strong General Ledger and Financial Reporting base which has yet to be rivaled by any Job Costing/Product Costing product I’ve seen in this market segment.

We realized that to take Enprise Job Costing to the world, we’d need some significant capital backing, so we signed up with TMT Ventures (a Technology Venture Capital Fund managed by Direct Capital). TMT invested over $2M into the Enprise Group and also contributed the nucleus of another of their investee companies, EMS-Cortex to be rolled into the Enprise Group as one of our three business units.

With new capital on board we immediately restructured our business into the three business units; Enprise Software, Enprise New Zealand and EMS-Cortex. For Enprise Software we hired Ben Bernstone to build up the global sales channel (as he had done for Exonet a number of years earlier) and Enprise co-founder Leanne Graham to lead the business unit (Leanne also had a very strong software sales background).

Over the following years Enprise Software built up a global sales channel of over 100 SAP Business One value-added resellers, predominantly in the English Speaking Countries (USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand).

Enprise engaged heavily in SAP’s strategic initiatives and helped to develop and pilot test their Micro-Vertical strategy for SAP Business One. Senior SAP executives from Europe visited Enprise at their Avondale premises to work directly on these strategies. Enprise Software personnel (including myself) also spent (and continue to spend) a significant amount of time travelling around the world to visit and work directly with SAP and SAP Channel partners.

I was one of the founding members of the SAP Business One Solution Partner Advisory Council (SPAC), established in December 2005 in San Francisco. Today I’m honored to be the Chairperson of the SPAC. My involvement in this council has given me much invaluable insight into the inner workings of SAP, their policies and their people. I have also made many valuable contacts and friendships with significant SAP partners around the world.

Today Enprise Software is led by General Manager Jason Langley, is trading profitably and continually increasing it’s reach and success around the world. Enprise is totally operated from Avondale, New Zealand and makes extensive use of the Internet to Sell and Support sales of its products around the world. The Enprise Software team still includes Lita Teng as lead developer, along with Product Manager James Brading, Channel Manager Krystle Rosandich and Support Manager Lianne Plant.

This is an exciting business which has fared well through the recent world economic crisis and is set for great success going forward, especially as markets recover and SME businesses return to investing strongly in the efficiencies of their operations.

Stay tuned for great things from Enprise Software