Archive for April, 2010

“Single Pane of Glass” Provisioning in the Cloud is a powerful thing

April 25, 2010

The following is an extract from a Microsoft case study on American Cloud Service Provider NGenX and their use of the Cortex Cloud Control Panel and Microsoft virtualization.

To me, it shows what a powerful concept the “Single Pane of Glass” is when it comes to provisioning and managing services in the Cloud. The need for a portal to control all hosted services can even help drive underlying technology choices at the Service Provider.

For the full case study refer to

“The VMware environment allowed us to virtualize a good percentage of our infrastructure that we used for hosted application services to our customers,” says Spindt. “However, the VMware platform required a lot of manual intervention for us to provision servers internally, and it didn’t provide nGenX with any means of exposing to our customers any control over their systems.”

To make up for the shortcoming in regard to self-serve capability, nGenX deployed a provisioning solution from Microsoft Gold Certified Partner EMS-Cortex. The IT staff at nGenX uses it to provision servers, and nGenX customers use it as an interface to administer many of their virtualized workloads. “The provisioning solution from EMS-Cortex is key to our vision around cloud computing,” says Robert A. Bye, Executive Vice President and General Manager at nGenX. “We’d seen how the EMS-Cortex control panel benefitted our Exchange and data backup customers, and we thought it would work for building out our concept of cloud computing.”

nGenX envisioned a single console from EMS-Cortex that its customers could use to manage virtual and physical servers, applications, and other resources such as storage and network resources. “However, VMware did not interoperate well enough with the EMS-Cortex solution for us to get more heavily engaged in a cloud computing environment,” says Spindt. “There was also the cost factor. We needed to determine whether we should stay with VMware or find an alternative, more cost-effective virtualization platform that would integrate better with EMS-Cortex.”


To meet its goals, nGenX chose to use Microsoft virtualization technologies to support its new cloud computing service offerings, called Guardian Cloud, with EMS-Cortex technologies as the core of its Guardian Control Panel for automation and provisioning. The company is leaving its existing VMware solution in place for internal purposes.

Elliot Cooper, co-founder and CFO of Enprise Group

April 24, 2010

A rare photo of Elliot...

Here is a rare photograph of Elliot Cooper, co-founder and CFO of the Enprise Group.

Elliot and I have worked together in several businesses over the last 15 or so years, firstly at PC Direct, then at Exonet and now at the Enprise Group. He’s a legendary finance man and a great accounting software designer – with a particular interest in Job Costing (or Project Costing). Elliot was very instrumental in the design of both Enprise Job Costing for SAP Business One and prior to that the Exonet ERP system.

With Elliot’s significant input into its design, it’s no wonder that Enprise Job Costing is so strong in the area of General Ledger integration with SAP Business One.

How ERP will be Sold, Deployed and Supported in the New Decade

April 22, 2010

Speaking as someone who is involved in the global SME ERP Industry through Enprise NZ and Enprise Software, involved in the Cloud Control Panel & Hosting industry through EMS-Cortex and involved in the Business Messaging and Social Media Industry through Datasquirt; here is my prediction of how ERP Software will be sold in the new decade that we are now entering;

Sales Process

  • Firstly, the prospective customer will search the Internet for an ERP Solution and ERP Reseller that look suitable for their type of business. This will involve the use of a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo and would include searches of web sites and various Social Media including Twitter, Linked-In, YouTube, Facebook and others.
  • The prospective customer will then contact the ERP Reseller via Email, Instant Message, Voice Call or Social Media Tweet, asking for more information and a demonstration of the ERP solution.
  • An initial consultation/discussion will follow via Email, Voice Call, Social Media etc to determine whether the fit between the ERP Solution and the customer requirements is such that a product demo is warranted.
  • The ERP Reseller will then set up a temporary demonstration ERP solution in the Cloud using their own portal in the Cortex Cloud Control Panel. The demonstration system would be a clean installation of the ERP demo, complete with its own clean virtual database server and (optional) desktop environment. The exact solution, including add-on industry vertical components and temporary user accounts can be selected and configured in the Cortex portal. This demo system would be provisioned, up and running within minutes of being requested on the portal and would be set to last for a predetermined duration for the purposes of the demonstration.
  • The ERP Reseller would then either visit the prospective customer and demonstrate the ERP solution on-site (geography permitting) using a computer connected to the Internet or will demonstrate via a web meeting tool such as GoToMeeting or WebEx.
  • The prospective customer might then want to spend further time trying out various aspects of the demonstration system after the ERP Reseller has finished demonstrating it. If the ERP Reseller agrees to this then they can arrange for the demonstration system to be kept alive in the Cloud for a longer duration to enable the prospective customer to continue with their own trial use of the system.
  • If/when the prospective customer decides to purchase the ERP system, the ERP Reseller would go back into their portal on the Cortex Control Panel, delete the demonstration system and configure a new live ERP system. The company and user names would be entered into the Cortex portal and also any additional up-sell items would also be included, such as Exchange Email accounts, SharePoint, Blackberry, VOIP accounts, Backups, Firewalls, Hosted Desktops (eg XenApp, XenDesktop), Payroll Access etc.
  • Application licensing information would be sent via Web Services to the respective vendors (eg Microsoft, Citrix, SAP, MYOB etc) and licences would be generated and applied back to the new hosted system via web services.
  • The Cloud-delivered ERP solution is now live, up and running. The ERP Reseller’s consultants can now access the system to configure the ERP Solution to the requirements of the customer.
  • The ERP Solution is now live in the Cloud and can be accessed from anywhere via the Internet. This includes all the branch and home locations of the customer as well as the ERP Reseller and the ERP and other software vendors.

Applying Upgrades and Patches to the ERP System

Prior to a new upgrade or patch being applied to a live ERP system, it must be tested against the individual customer’s data and processes to ensure that the software changes work correctly and cause no disruption to the business.

To enable this testing process, the ERP Reseller will go into their portal of the Cortex Control Panel and request a temporary test copy of the live ERP Environment. This enables the ERP Reseller’s consultants, in conjunction with the customer’s staff, to test the new software version and identify any possibly reconfiguration issues on the test system.

Once the testing process is completed and signed off, the ERP Reseller can go back into their portal of the Cortex Control Panel and apply the upgrade to the live system. They can also delete the test system when they are finished with it.


Support of the ERP System by the ERP Reseller and the ERP Vendor is a lot easier, more efficient and less costly under this new model for the following reasons;

  • Because the ERP System and its virtual operating environment was provisioned by Cortex, it would be done the same every time, using best practices, using the correct program versions and configuration. These things are therefore known to the support personnel and not subject to variation.
  • The support personnel have quick and easy remote access to the hosted ERP solution (subject to permission from the customer to access their system and data).

The model works better for everyone involved in the ERP system sale. The customer, the ERP Reseller and the ERP and other software vendors.

The Customer gets:

  • Extended Access to a Demo System
  • Reduced Capital Outlay
  • Faster Implementation
  • Reduced management overhead of looking after local server & infrastructure

The ERP Reseller gets:

  • Up-sell opportunities
  • Faster Implementation – freeing up time to sell more!
  • Repeatable Cookie Cutter implementations
  • Easier to Support

The Vertical Solution Vendor gets:

  • Opportunity to list solutions on the Cortex Portal
  • Easier Support on a Known Environment

The ERP Vendor gets:

  • Faster Implementations = More Sales
  • Easier & Less Expensive Support
  • Better Product Performance in a Correct Known Environment

Cortex Cloud Control Panel Boosts Hyper-V Automation

April 15, 2010

Over the last few months, EMS-Cortex has tapped huge demand in the market for Hyper-V provisioning software. As a result, some of the world’s greatest Cloud service providers are now using the Cortex Cloud Control Panel for provisioning Microsoft Hyper-V virtual servers. Some of these service providers are listed below;

MHA Application Hosting – NZ (
OBT – Australia (
Cloudeon – Denmark (
Atos origin – Netherlands (
Integral networks – USA ( )
nGenX – USA (
Bluefire (Dimension Data) – Australia (

The Cortex Cloud Control Panel makes Hyper-V virtual server provisioning and management fast & easy via the same “single plane of glass” used to provision applications and services such as Exchange, SharePoint, XenApp, OCS, BlackBerry, SQL Server, Dynamics CRM, Terminal Server, IIS, DNS etc.

SME’s Prefer Local Presence for ERP Sales & Service

April 11, 2010

Having clocked up more than 20 years of working in the ERP industry targeting small to medium enterprises (SMEs), I can now state confidently that there are some truths to this business that will probably never change.

Some of those truths are as follows…

  • Small and medium-sized businesses prefer to buy from and deal with local people, when it comes to ERP and accounting software. They want to eyeball and have face to face access with the people they are dealing with.
  • However, those businesses have no problem with using a centralized help desk function which is accessed by toll-free phone or the Internet – if it is offered in conjunction with localized representation.
  • SME focused resellers and service agents with only one geographic location therefore tend to be very generalist and opportunist about what type of solutions they sell and the customers they sell to. In other words they resist specialization because they only have a limited market of customers in their locality. This is obviously not the case for resellers that have wide regional coverage – as they have a larger accessible market and can afford to build up expertise in particular vertical markets.

For the above reasons, from the perspective of Enprise Software we are now seeing a consolidation of our SAP Business One ERP resellers that sell Enprise Job Costing, evident everywhere, but particularly in North America. The result is fewer reseller organisations, but with a much more spread-out branch structure and centralized customer support functions.

One of our best Enprise Job Costing partners that has been particularly successful in its geographic expansion with centralized support, is Vision-33 which now has regional offices in Irvine CA, Los Angeles CA, San Francisco CA, Salt Lake City UT, Seattle WA, Portland OR, Houston TX, Austin TX, Dallas TX, Fort Lauderdale FL and St Johns NL Canada.

Locally in New Zealand, Enprise New Zealand has been following the same strategy of building up a network of regional sales & implementation offices, with centralized support to claim the mantle of a “Nationwide” presence. Enprise NZ has offices & representation in Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Christchurch (further regional expansion is planned for this year) . Centralized support is offered through toll-free 0800 numbers and Internet support web site.

I believe this is the best model for SME ERP sales and service. This is evidenced by the stellar sales success currently being enjoyed by both Vision-33 and Enprise New Zealand as they expand their presence in their respective markets. They can specialize in the types of solutions they offer to the market, building up specialized expertise, rather than needing to be all things to all people. It should also be said that specialized expertise and the quantities of scale achieved by these larger organizations leads to more successful outcomes for customers and greater profitability for the reseller…and that must be a good thing.

Global Cloud Innovation born inside Telecom New Zealand

April 8, 2010

Telecom New Zealand has been in the news for all sorts of reasons over the last couple of months, but in my opinion the most interesting story has been overlooked…

The Cortex Cloud Control Panel started off its existence over ten years ago, as a set of provisioning services, management tools, security tools and reporting systems which were custom-built for Telecom New Zealand by a company called EMS-Global. Telecom NZ was a pioneer in the field of hosting business applications and services, which meant that much of what was needed to manage its offerings had to be custom-built.

Over the following years, a product called “Cortex” evolved out of the original collection of tools and utilities used at Telecom. Most of the code used in Cortex was re-written from the original VBScript to the more current VB.NET. The services company EMS-Global was reborn as the product company EMS-Cortex.

Today the Cortex Cloud Control Panel is used around the world by many leading Telco’s and Hosted Service Providers, including TELUS, USA.NET, FPWeb, Melbourne IT, Unisys and Atos Origin.  The list of products supported by Cortex has continued to expand and now includes; Exchange, SharePoint, Broadsoft, OCS, SQL Server, IIS, DNS, Virtual Servers, Backup Solutions, Citrix XenApp & XenDesktop, Terminal Services and more.

Every month, an average of five additional Service Providers from around the world, sign up for Cortex to manage their Cloud Offerings.

Telecom New Zealand remains a loyal customer of Cortex through its Gen-i business unit that uses the latest version of Cortex to manage its Cloud offerings, including Exchange, SharePoint and other hosted business applications.

Additionally, Telecom NZ is a significant shareholder of EMS-Cortex, through its investment in TMT Ventures, which owns a 60% stake in the company.

It could be said that Cortex, which was born in Telecom New Zealand, gives new meaning to the phrase “Land of the Long White Cloud”…

SAP Business One just keeps getting more compelling

April 5, 2010

SAP Business One is today a well-proven and successful ERP platform for SME Businesses around the world. It is now supported in over 80 countries by over 820 VAR Partners and boasts over 500 add-on solutions built by over 300 Solution Partners. As a platform for developing specific vertical-market solutions, Business One has excelled with its Data and User Interface API’s, which enable third-party developers (like Enprise Software) to develop add-on modules that look, interact and reside with Business One as if they were part of the core product itself.

Later this month, the new version 8.8 will be released. This is the version that the SAP Business One partner community has been waiting for since it went into “ramp-up” (final, live testing on selected and restricted customer sites) in August 2009.

Version 8.8 of SAP Business One has an emphasis on the new technology environment, including enhanced connectivity to “Cloud Computing” solutions & Web Services, Embedded Analytics from SAP Business Objects, further improvements to its SDKs, a new “look and feel”, upgrade wizards etc.

At the same time, Enprise is shipping a new version of the popular Enprise Job Costing for SAP Business One which is fully compatible with Business One 8.8 and features new levels of integration with Microsoft Project.

Cloud is a Paradigm Shift for Business Applications

April 5, 2010

Cloud Computing is the most significant paradigm shift to happen to the business software applications industry since the wide-scale adoption of Personal Computers and MS-DOS by businesses in the 1980’s.

After being predicted for many years, the paradigm shift is happening now and is being driven by;

  • Real economic and practical requirements of businesses around the world (influenced in part by the recent global economic downturn).
  • Major technology advances and economies in Cloud delivery infrastructure.
  • Shifting attitudes of business people towards widespread usage of the Internet.

None of the above drivers is a constant. Each is getting stronger as time goes on. From my involvement in the Cloud and applications industries, I believe we are now starting to experience the tipping point.

Paradigm shifts create winners and losers. Business models are changing and what worked in the past and present, may not work in future.

Those in the business software industry that don’t embrace the new world of the Cloud fast enough will be left behind and pay a heavy price. Those that are quicker, stand to make the gains of what a paradigm change has to offer – and this can potentially be a huge win.

The good news for many business application developers is that their applications need not be browser-based nor multi-tenanted to operate successfully in the Cloud. Conventional Windows applications can be delivered economically in the Cloud using technologies such as Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop or Terminal Services and “virtual multi-tenanting”, achieving savings on hardware costs, can be achieved using virtual servers. Servers are now more economical to run as Hosted Virtual Servers using virtualization technologies from Microsoft and Citrix, such as XenServer and Hyper-V. A Hosted Virtual Server can be considerably less expensive over its lifetime than an on-premise Hardware Server.

The good news for Hosted Service Providers is that they can get to market faster with new Cloud virtualization technologies and application delivery offerings using a smart provisioning solution such as Cortex from EMS-Cortex. With Cortex, Hosted Service Providers can be up and running within days, reinvented as “Cloud Providers” and in time to capture the new opportunities.

Business Application Software Vendors need to team up with “Cloud Providers” for a win-win collaboration in the Cloud. The market and the technology is ready!