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Bringing A/R Innovation to Life in Prophet 21

Bringing A/R Innovation to Life in Prophet 21

Epicor Prophet 21 and automation go hand-in-hand: successfully integrating your P21 ERP system with a best-of-breed solution can help automate manual and paper-based processes that burden organizations.

Accounts Receivable AR Innovation Cloud
Unified AR Innovation Logo

When it comes the challenge of automating your P21 Accounts Receivable processes, Keith Carman, Vice President of Enterprise Solutions at Unified A/R, summarizes it simply as a matter of “convenience, convenience, convenience.” Today, more than 70% of B2B payments are still completed with a paper check and a paper invoice.

What is the impact of paper processes to P21 customers?

The absence of Accounts Receivable technology and increasing interchange rates for credit card transactions can result in longer DSO, fraud risks and manual posting/reconciliation. The net result: higher costs, lower accuracy, and hits to your cash flow.

Unified A/R improves Prophet 21 payment processes by simplifying B2B Accounts Receivable and Payment Acceptance with best-in-class solutions and ongoing consultation from payment industry experts.

How Can Unified A/R Bring Your A/R Innovation to Life?

Unified’s cloud-based A/R solutions help clients get paid faster and easier at less cost while improving their customers’ experience. Unified’s Executive Team brings more than 150 years of combined management success from the Payments and ERP Industries and has partnered with many of the nation’s largest Trade and Professional Associations, Financial Institutions, and Technology Firms. Unified A/R is headquartered in Franklin, TN.

On November 30th, Unified’s Keith Carman and Brittany Rodgers will be discussing Accounts Receivable automation for P21. They’ll explore how P21 AR Automation improves near-term margin, order-to-cash processes and customer experience, including:  

  • Digital tools to accelerate cash flow, improve client satisfaction and support non-remote and remote work environments.  
  • Best practices to reach desired financial outcomes, maintain PCI Compliance and improve efficiency.  
  • How to recognize and resolve barriers to customer adoption of digital workflows.  

The team will also provide a live demo of P21-integrated process for invoice/statement creation and delivery, payment acceptance, and automated cash application.  

WHEN: November 30th at 3PM – 4PM (EASTERN)

WHERE: ESTES INTEGRATE 2022 (A Digital Gathering of Prophet 21 Leaders, Thinkers, Innovators)

WHY: Unified A/R Offers the BEST Cloud-Based A/R Solutions Available to the Distribution Industry

AR Integration Unified A/R
Keith Carman AR Automation Expert

Keith Carman, Vice President of Enterprise, leads Business Development, aligning product solutions and internal expertise to client needs to deliver streamlined implementations, go-live events, and ongoing success for our clients. He holds degrees in Economics and Finance from Indiana’s Hanover College.

Brittany Rodgers Accounts Innovation Receivable Expert

Brittany Rodgers, Integration Engineer, manages new client onboarding and integration activities, providing a personal approach as the liaison between enterprise clients and Unified A/R’s IT, Implementation and Quality Assurance Teams. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Operations Management from the University of Cincinnati.

Data Center Strategy: How To Cloud Up For Uptime

Data Center Strategy: How To Cloud Up For Uptime

A Cloud is a Data Center and a Data Center is a Cloud?

Cloud applications ultimately sit upon the foundation of a server stack. You can view a cloud-based server as someone else’s computer, and picture these servers housed in a data center, which is their most likely location.

A data center can be simply described as a specified space within a building designed to securely house computing resources.
Data Center Considerations

Servers

Power

Communication

A large data center normally involves an extensive open area, which is divided into racks and cages, to hold the servers themselves, as well as the power and communication connections used to link each individual server with the rest of the data center network. This network would reside in a building with sufficient architecture to allow for rapid data communication, and similarly high-performing connections to the outside world.

The building itself is normally a large and highly secure edifice, constructed from reinforced building materials, as to prevent physical compromise. It is often located on a campus that is itself physically guarded with high fences and rigid gates.

Server

PHYSICAL SECURITY 

DATA CENTER HARDWARE

Cloud Security

CLOUD-BASED SECURITY

DATA CENTER STRATEGY

The Servers Themselves: What Is In Your Data Center?

Inside the building (the data center) exists a complex cooling and ventilation system, to prevent the heat-inducing computing devices from overheating. The campus is supported by redundant power systems, to allow the network to run, even if the main power grid experiences interruption or shutdown. The inner workings of the data center are designed to prevent downtime, but the materials used in construction can vary. Consider a pencil made from wood vs. a pencil made from plastic. Consider further a pencil manufactured from metal built to protect a thin and fragile graphite fragment. 

The ways in which end users can attain access to the resources in a data center can vary due to the fact that cloud provisioning can occur in many layers.

Option A: Cloud Provider = Data Center

Sometimes the cloud provider is itself the data center. Most often this is the case when you want to use server space from a data center, or else wish to collocate your hardware in a data center. For instance, as a customer, you might procure new hardware and move it to one of US Signal’s data centers in a colocation arrangement. This allows you to benefit from US Signal’s physical security, network redundancy, high-speed fiber network, and peering relationships, to allow for a broad array of high-speed communications. 

Option B: Cloud Provider = Data Center Management Firm

Sometimes the cloud provider is an organization that manages the allocation and management of cloud resources for you — they serve as an intermediary between the end customer and the data center. For instance, EstesGroup partners with US Signal. We help customers choose the right server resources in support of the application deployment and management services that we provide for ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) customers.

Moreover, not all data centers are created equal. Data centers differ in countless ways, including (but not limited to) availability, operating standards, physical security, network connectivity, data redundancy, and power grid resiliency. Most often, larger providers of cloud infrastructure actually provide a network of tightly interconnected data centers, such that you’re not just recruiting a soldier — you’re drafting an entire army. 

As such, when choosing a cloud provider, understanding the underlying data centers in use is as important as understanding the service providers themselves. That said, what are some of the questions that you should ask your provider when selecting a data center? 

Is the provider hosting out of a single data center or does the provider have data center redundancy?

Geo-diverse data centers are of great importance when it relates to overall risk of downtime. Diversely-located data centers provide inherent redundancy, especially beneficial when it comes to backup and disaster recovery.

But what defines diverse? One important consideration relates to the locations of data centers relative to America’s national power grid infrastructure. Look for a provider that will store your primary site and disaster recovery site on separate power grids.

This will bolster you from the potentially of an outage to one of the individual grid locations. Think of the continental divide. On separate sides of the divide, water flows in one of two directions. When it comes to national power grids, support comes from different hubs. Look for a provider who has redundant locations on the other side of the divide to protect you in the event of a major power outage.

Are they based on a proprietary data center, collocated, or leveraging the state-of-the art technology of a leading data center? 

A provider of hosting services may choose to store their data in one of many places. They may choose to leverage a world-class data center architecture like US Signal’s. Conversely, they may choose to collocate hardware that they already own in a data center. Or they may choose, like many managed services providers do, to leverage a proprietary data center, most often located in their home office. 

Colocation is not uncommon among first steps in the cloud. If you own hardware already, and would like to leverage a world-class data center, colocation is a logical option. But for cloud providers, owning hardware becomes a losing war of attrition. Hardware doesn’t stay current, and unless its being procured in large quantities, it’s expensive. These costs often get passed along to the customer. Worse still, it encourages providers to skimp on redundancy, making their offerings less scalable and less robust in the event of disaster events. 

Proprietary data centers add several layers of concern to the colocation option. In addition to the hardware ownership challenges, the provider is not responsible for all the infrastructure responsibilities that come with data center administration, such as redundant power, cooling, physical security, and network connectivity.

Moreover, proprietary data centers often lack the geo-diversity that comes with a larger provider. Beyond infrastructure, security is a monumental responsibility for a data center provider, and many smaller providers struggle to keep up with evolving threats. In fact, Estes recently onboarded a customer who came to us due to their Managed Service Provider’s propriety data center getting hacked and ransomed. 

Is the cloud provider hosting out of a public cloud data center? 

Public cloud environments operate in multi-tenant configurations where customers contend with one another for resources. Resource contention means that when one customer’s resource consumption spikes, the performance experienced by the other customers in the shared tenant will likely suffer. Moreover, many multi-tenant environments lack the firewall isolation present in private cloud infrastructures, which increases security concerns. Isolated environments are generally safer environments. 

Is the cloud provider proactively compliant?

Compliance is more than the adherence to accounting standards — it is a means to guarantee that your provider is performing the necessary due diligence in order to ensure the business practices of an organization do not create vulnerabilities that can compromise the security and reliability assertions of the provider. What compliance and auditing standards does your cloud provider adhere to?

Is your cloud provider compliant according to their own hardware vendor’s standards?

Hardware providers, such as Cisco, for instance, offer auditing services, to ensure their hardware is being reliably deployed. Ensure that your provider adheres to their vendor’s standards. How about penetration testing? Is your provider performing external penetration testing to ensure PCI security compliance? In terms of industry standard compliance frameworks, such as HIPAA, PCI/DCC, and SOC I and SOC II, ensure that your provider is being routinely audited. Leveraging industry standards through compliance regulation best practices can go a long way to make sure they are not letting their guards down. 

What kind of campus connectivity is offered between your data centers and the outside world?

Low national latency is of utmost importance from a customer perspective. Efficient data transfer between the data centers themselves and from a given data center to the outside world is fundamental to a cloud customer. Achieving transactional efficiency is achieved in multiple ways.

For a network to be efficient, the data itself must take as few “hops” from one network to another. This is best achieved through tight partnerships between the data center and both the national and regional ISPs that service individual organizations.

Within the data center network, an efficient infrastructure is helpful. US Signal, for instance, has a 14K mile network fiber backbone connecting its data centers and connecting them to regional transfer stations. This allows US Signal to support 3 ms latency between its 9 data centers, and to physically connect with over 90 national ISPs. This results in an extremely low national latency.

What kinds of backup and disaster recovery solutions can be bundled with your cloud solutions?

Fundamental to a cloud deployment is the ability to provide redundancy in the event of a disaster. Disaster recovery is necessary to sustaining an environment, whether on premise or in the cloud. But a disaster recovery solution must adhere to rigorous standards of its own if it is to be effective. Physical separation between a primary and secondary sight is one such baseline need. Additionally, the disaster recovery solution needs to be sufficiently air-gapped, in order to hit your desired RPO and RTO targets, while avoiding potential cross-contamination between platforms due to an event of hacking, viruses, or ransomware.

What kinds of uptime and reliability guarantees are offered by your data center?

All of the above aspects of a data center architecture should ultimately result in greater uptime for the cloud consumer. The major public data center providers are notorious for significant outages, and this has deleterious effects on customers of these services. Similarly, smaller providers may lack the infrastructure that can support rigorous uptime standards. When choosing a provider, make sure to understand the resiliency and reliable uptime of the supporting platform. EstesGroup can offer a 100% uptime SLA when hosted in our cloud with recovery times not achievable by the public cloud providers.

Uptime has a planned/unplanned component that must also be considered. Many larger cloud providers do not give advanced warning when instances will be shut down for upgrades, which can be extremely disruptive for consumers, and result in a loss of control that conflicts with daily business initiatives. Ensure that planned downtime is a service that is communicated and understood before it happens. 

How scalable is the overall platform?

Scalability has to do with flexibility and speed. How flexible can the resources of an individual virtual machine (VM) be tweaked and how quickly can these changes be made. Ideally, your cloud provider provides dynamic resource pool provisioning — this allows for dynamic allocation of computing resources when and where they are needed.

Some provider environments support “auto-scaling,” which can dynamically create and terminate instances, but they may not allow for dynamic resource changes to an existing instance. In these cases, if a customer wishes to augment resources of any instance, it must be terminated and rebuilt using the desired instance options provided by other providers. This can be problematic. Additionally, provisioning, whether to a new VM or an existing one, should be quick, and not require a long lead time to complete. Ensure that your cloud provider specifies the lapsed time required to provision and re-provision resources.

What are the data movement costs?

The costs associated with the movement of data can significantly impact your total cloud costs. These are normally applied as a toll fee that accumulates based on the amount of data that moves over a given time. So these costs can be unpredictable. But what kinds of data movements occur?

  • Data ingress: data moving into the storage location, as it is being uploaded.
  • Data egress: data out of the storage location, as it is being downloaded. 

Data centers rarely charge for ingress movement — they like the movement of data into their network. But many will charge for data egress. This means that if you want your data back, they may charge you for it.

Sometimes these fees even occur when data is moving within the provider’s network, between regions and instances. If you’re looking for a cloud provider, check the fine print to determine whether egress fees are applied, and estimate your data movement, to understand your total cost. EstesGroup gives you symmetrical internet data transfer with no egress charges, so your data movement does not result in additional charges. This means that your cloud costs are predictable.

Does the cloud provider offer robust support?

Downtime can come from one of many situations. Your ISP could experience an outage, and may need to fail over to your secondary provider.  Or you may encounter an email phishing scam resulting in a local malware attack.  Or you may experience an outage, due to a regional power grid issue. In these extenuating circumstances, you may find yourself in need of contacting your cloud provider in a hurry.

As such, you’ll want a provider that offers robust pre-sales and post-sales support that is available 24/7/365. Many providers offer high-level support only if you subscribe to an additional support plan, which is an additional monthly cost. Wait times are also an issue — you may have a support plan, but the support may be slow and cumbersome. Look for a cloud provider that will guarantee an engineer in less than 60 seconds, 24/7/365.

Are you ready for a tour of one of the best data centers in the world? Meet with the EstesCloud team to get the right cloud strategy for your business.

Prophet 21 Middleware Server Going Up

Prophet 21 Middleware Server Going Up

Moving Your Distribution Operations to the Cloud?

How to Understand Prophet 21 Client Deployments

As we near the point to which Epicor will no longer support the legacy P21 desktop application, it feels like a good time to once again review the architectural changes that have been made to the P21 ERP application — the P21 client and the P21 middleware server — and better understand the implications for members of the Epicor Prophet 21 user community still using the legacy P21 desktop application.

Prophet 21 Middleware Server Options

Talking Tiers

Historically speaking, Epicor’s Prophet 21 application has undergone a rather significant transition over the past few years. While the Epicor Kinetic application leveraged a client-server model, going back to its Epicor 905 incarnation and before, the Epicor P21 application possessed a two tier architecture — a bit of an aberration in the ERP community.

In a two tier configuration, the user’s client application communicates directly with the database:

Prophet 21 Database

Two Tier Architecture: End User > Fat Client > Database

A two tier architecture places a lot of the weight of transactional processing on the client or desktop application — hence, the term “fat client.” Traditionally, the most effective way of managing the legacy P21 desktop application in a two-tier context was to deploy the P21 application to a terminal server (for small companies) or a terminal server farm (for larger organizations) to prevent the P21 application from hogging too many resources on an individual user’s PC.

A robust server farm allows for a comparatively thin array of user PCs:

Robust Prophet 21 Server Farm

Two Tier Architecture: End User > Thin Client > Terminal Server Farm Fat Client > Database

Because of the familiarity the user community has with the legacy Prophet 21 desktop application, the “fat client” architecture has been somewhat slow in being replaced. Customers have grown accustomed to the P21 desktop application, with its large file footprint, deployed directly to workstations or installed on scaled-out RDP farms, and communicating directly to the SQL server with no application server layer is present. This allowed for the conventional use of all traditional P21 customizations, dynachange activities, and third-party development performed on this platform. 

Sounds simple enough. But technology never stands still, and the limitations of a two tier architecture, with an inordinately heavy P21 client application, creates understandable challenges. To address these concerns, Epicor has been evolving the P21 application. This change has come in two parts.

  • The first was the addition of a P21 middleware server layer, similar to the architecture of the Kinetic application server, moving the bulk of the P21 application logic from the client to the server. Such a model better supports API-level integrations, makes upgrades easier, and allows for a more scalable overall deployment.
  • The second was the development of a web-based client application, to replace the P21 desktop application. This allows for a more mobile, device-independent, and potentially better-performing means of communicating with the application.

As you can see, the three-tier P21 architecture greatly differs from its antecedent:

Prophet 21 Middleware Server

Three Tier Architecture: End User > Thin(Web) Client > Middleware > Database

Web / Hybrid Prophet 21 Client

As you can see, the modern P21 architecture leverages a “thin client” — most often in the form of a web client. Initially, Epicor also provided what was called a “Hybrid Client” — wrapping the web client’s functionality within a desktop application that gives a modicum of the look and feel of the legacy client, while still communicating at the middleware server level.

Implications on P21 Client Deployments

So, what does this mean for the distribution industry and for Epicor Prophet 21 customers? There are several implications:

  • Support: One of the most significant implications of the above architecture is the downturn of support. No new iterations of the P21 desktop application are pending in the current or future versions. Moreover, bug fix support will conclude by the end of 2022, leaving the application in sunset mode. While users may choose to still use it, without support, the interoperability with future versions remains in question.
  • Elimination of the Terminal Server: For companies moving to the P21 web client, it generally implies a move away from terminal server farm deployments. It is generally a best practice to avoid the use of browser-based technology on terminal server environments. For this reason, it is preferable to access the Prophet 21 application through a client on the user’s own device, and not through a remote desktop or Citrix app. The implications of this approach on user performance is still being evaluated.
  • SaaS / Web Client Confusion: It is easy to confuse the Prophet 21 web client with the P21 Software-as-a-Service deployment option. We’ve had customers approach us, believing that the elimination of the P21 desktop client necessitates a move to a P21 SaaS deployment. In fact, a company can move to the P21 web client without the need to move to a P21 SaaS deployment. The web client can be used in support of an P21 on-premise deployment, a SaaS configuration, or a P21 private cloud.
  • Blended Options: Transitioning from the Prophet 21 desktop application to purely using the P21 web client can be a complex process. Depending on the number of changes, enhancements, customizations, and modifications in place, retro-fitting these into the web version can be a challenge. Moreover, it can be a time-consuming challenge. To address these challenges, we’ve seen several customers implement blended deployments, where the P21 middleware and web client deployment operates in parallel with the P21 legacy desktop client. Based on the user base, and where the upgrade challenges exist, specified users leverage the web version, while others utilize the P21 desktop client. This occurs while the more complex area of the software are retro-fitted to accommodate the web client. As these challenges are overcome, users begin to migrate to the web version. In other cases where the web client migration is more a matter of change management, the legacy desktop provides a backstop for users still acclimating to the new system. Existing users continue to use the Prophet 21 desktop application, while early adopters and new employees take on the web version. The presence of parallel deployment paths, connecting to a single, centralized database, make this possible. In fact, this is our most common cloud deployment to date.
Server Deployment Cloud Architecture
  • Blended Architecture: Connecting though a combination of the P21 web client / middleware server deployment and the P21 desktop application (locally installed and/or via terminal services).

Software migrations are no laughing matter, even when they are within the same application. The enhancements made to the Epicor Prophet 21 application are significant and groundbreaking, and will ultimately work to successfully support the members of the P21 community. But getting there will often be a matter of incremental steps. Fortunately, there are deployment options available to make this transition both incremental and successful. 

Hybrid and Private Deployment Options for Epicor’s Prophet 21

Are you looking to move to P21’s three-tiered architecture? Do you need some guidance in understanding your options, and how you might make it work? Are you thinking about migrating your on-premise platform into the cloud while you’re at it? Estes specializes in private cloud P21 deployments, providing the flexibility for blended options, while also providing you with all the access and control of your environment that you need, allowing your migration to occur according to your schedule, in a manner that will support the needs of your business.

Learn more about private and hybrid cloud options with a free demo of EstesCloud services.

The Distribution Industry Heads to Texas

The Distribution Industry Heads to Texas

On August 29th, EstesGroup heads to Texas for one of the most important events in the distribution industry. Visit us in booths 6 and 7 at P21WWUG CONNECT 2022 in San Antonio August 29th – August 31st! We are proud to be the Platinum Sponsor for this year’s show!

What is P21WWUG CONNECT?

Organized by the Prophet 21 World Wide Users Group (P21WWUG), CONNECT is an annual gathering of Epicor Prophet 21 users from across the globe. Members of the distribution community head to exciting cities (i.e. Atlanta ’21 or San Antonio ’22) to meet, collaborate, and learn more about the Prophet 21 application. Attendees interact and learn from other members of the P21WWUG community, from Epicor consultants and product managers, and from third-party solution providers, like DCKAP, our partner for a pre-show charity walk that will benefit children in need. With multiple days of educational sessions, the event offers excellent opportunities for Prophet 21 users to expand their use of the Epicor P21 application, and better leverage P21 ERP to serve the needs of their organizations.

Distribution Industry Texas Cloud

With multiple days of educational sessions, the event offers excellent opportunities for Prophet 21 users to expand their use of the Epicor P21 application, and better leverage P21 ERP to serve the needs of their organizations. Visit us at CONNECT booths 6 and 7 to learn more about application hosting, cloud migrations, infrastructure as a service (IaaS), IT support and services for companies in the distribution industry, application optimization through partnership with an Epicor Prophet 21 expert, and more.

Who is P21WWUG CONNECT for?

The P21WWUG CONNECT conference is designed to address the needs of a broad base of the P21 community. Attendees of the event range from business owners and executives to managers and functional specialists, in areas such as purchasing, accounting, sales, inventory and warehouse management. This event helps both the members of the P21 community that use the data from the P21 application to make executive decisions, and the folks in the trenches, using the P21 application to make their companies function.

Who will I meet at P21WWUG CONNECT?

Your peers and colleagues, to begin with. End users, power users, local experts, IT admins — individuals who’ve worked with the Epicor P21 system for years and have learned its inner workings, and have solved countless problems in and through its use. They bring their collective knowledge to the P21WWUG CONNECT event, to share their hard-earned lessons with others. Beyond the user community, an extensive vendor area allows you to interact with providers of integrated solutions that enable companies to extend their P21 applications by bringing it into contact with customer and suppliers, and to automate processes internally, increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

What will I learn from the Prophet 21 World Wide Users Group?

It takes a lot to make your business succeed. To address your needs, P21WWUG CONNECT offers a range of networking opportunities, keynote speakers, educational sessions, roundtable discussions, and workshops, that address your current challenges and the challenges of the future. 

That said, what you learn depends on what you’re looking for. 

Maybe you are an inventory control manager, already well-versed in the P21 application, but in search of more information about inventory management, stocking levels, cycle counting, or units of measure. 

Or you could be a power user, responsible for data management and updates, and wish to better understand using excel in conjunction with P21, improving your skills in reports, queries, financial statements, data extraction, SSRS or Crystal Reports. 

You might be a developer, looking to learn more about Dynachange, business rules, data streams or business process automation. You might be here trying to extend your P21 ecosystem, interesting in talking with P21 third-party vendors, or attending sessions to learn more about shipping integrations, credit card processing, or ACH integrations. 

Or you might be an uber-techie, concerned with database administration cloud capabilities, cybersecurity or middleware APIs. Many users simply come trying to better understand P21’s Web UI, and whether they are ready to take the leap.  

Business leaders and owners come to P21WWUG CONNECT to talk with other business leaders and better understand the current landscape.

Are you thinking of attending P21WWUG CONNECT? Are you trying to sharpen your business acumen, to make better decisions in rapidly fluctuating times? Perhaps you are trying to better understand continuous improvement in the distribution industry, or you wish to learn how other distributors are dealing with supply chain issues. Your concern might be sales strategy, or mastering the challenges of recruiting, retainment, and employee development. If you’re a business leader, CONNECT might be the place to help you use Prophet 21 ERP to take your business into the future. 

Chances are that if you have questions about the distribution industry, EstesGroup ERP and IT experts at P21WWUG CONNECT 2022 will provide the answers. The event will offer sessions, users, vendors, and experts to help you find the answers that you are looking for. Visit us at booth 6 and 7 this August!

Where and when is P21WWUG CONNECT 2022?

The Prophet 21 World Wide User Group will be hosting CONNECT 2022 from August 29th to August 31st at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa.

EstesGroup is hosting a pre-event Charity Walk with our partner DCKAP. DCKAP simplifies commerce for distributors. Get better results faster with DCKAP’s simple, yet powerful, product suite. 

Any other considerations concerning this distribution industry event?

To attend P21WWUG CONNECT, you need to be a member of the P21 World Wide User Group.  Are you a member already?  If not, check out the P21WWUG website for more info.

Cloud Server

Walk for Charity with EstesGroup and DCKAP on August 29th in San Antonio! (P.S. You don’t have to be in the distribution industry to attend.)

Walk for Charity at P21WWUG CONNECT in San Antonio

Walk for Charity at P21WWUG CONNECT in San Antonio

Technology is on the move. Chase it down at P21WWUG CONNECT in San Antonio this August. Cloud options, web client deployments, integrations, middleware installations: the road ahead is replete with opportunities and obstacles, with shortcuts and fast lanes — not to mention the occasional blind alley. 

P21WWUG CONNECT in San Antonio Charity Walk

EstesGroup is excited to be the Platinum Sponsor for the Epicor Prophet 21® event of the year! We will begin the show with a cause dear to our hearts. In the spirit of meaningful motion, DCKAP & EstesGroup teams have banded together to walk for charity at P21WWUG CONNECT in San Antonio.

Are you attending the annual P21WWUG CONNECT event?

CONNECT is a great opportunity to learn more about Epicor’s P21® application — what it can do, how it can be used and, most importantly, where it’s headed. Applications are always on the run. Events like P21WWUG CONNECT are a great opportunity to catch up and head them off at the proverbial pass.

Run Your Business With Prophet 21®, Walk for Charity with EstesGroup ERP Experts

WHO: EstesGroup, DCKAP, and YOU!

WHAT: A charity walk that will benefit the Save the Children Foundation (FREE to attend, as donations are optional, with FREE breakfast following the walk)

WHEN: August 29th from 7 AM to 10 AM (CST)

WHERE: At P21WWUG CONNECT in San Antonio at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort

WHY: Find community with ERP, technology, cloud, and commerce experts while supporting a good cause!

This is a great opportunity to clear your head, and meet some great people while helping the world, before the P21WWUG CONNECT event activities and festivities commence.

Walk With EstesGroup and DCKAP this August

Get some exercise and enjoy a good meal afterwards! We’ll meet at a designated area on the grounds prior to the P21WWUG Connect event, where we’ll start the day with coffee and refreshments before heading out on the walking path. Then, we’ll provide attendees with a hearty breakfast and grab-and-go goodies, too.

Taming Your ERP System With Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure

Taming Your ERP System With Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure

Cloud ERP: Confused as a mollusk and dumber than a brick wall?

In discussing integrated application ecosystems, metaphors are often helpful in understanding the challenges associated with cloud migrations and the implications associated with the options selected when migrating an integrated ERP platform. Sometimes conceptualized as a “hybrid cloud,” any time an ERP system integrates with application extensions, homegrown solutions, or third-party applications, we move beyond a simple cloud platform into a hybrid ecosystem. Read on to learn more about hybrid cloud infrastructure.

Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure

Cloud migrations can be complex, especially when a migration includes more than simply an ERP system. A stand-alone ERP system can be assessed at face value: depending on the needs of the business, the functionality of the various versions of the software, and the resources available, a company can come to a relatively clear deployment decision. But when we begin to discuss the company’s hybrid cloud architecture — the ERP application and its integrated extensions — the waters get inky-dark and murky in a hurry.

Enter the confused octopus. One helpful metaphor in understanding cloud migrations is to liken an application’s ecosystem to a confused octopus.

Hybrid Cloud ERP Integrations

An ERP hybrid cloud is a body with many tentacles. And the tentacles don’t always get along with the head — or with each other, for that matter. While each tentacle is joined in some manner with the head, the lifecycle of each tentacle is independent of the parent ERP system. While an ERP system may move from an on-premise architecture to a Software-as-a-Service model (SaaS), a given extension may be designed to only interact at the database server level and may no longer be receiving updates. Simply put, the tentacles advance at their own pace — some may advance more rapidly or more slowly than the main ERP system.

As such, if we were to view a private cloud migration as the movement of an octopus though the ocean, you’d discover that some tentacles keep up with the head, while others may actually surpass the head, while others still stand in place, slowly stretching and extending their ever-thinning connection as the head moves further and further away.  And in some cases, a tentacle may stretch so far as to snap off entirely. For instance, if the head of the mollusk slithers into SaaS and one of the tentacles still languishes in the deep trenches of SQL stored procedures, we might be in deep… water!

So why is it that the movement of the ERP animal’s head might estrange one of its third-party tentacles?  

Perhaps another metaphor would help clarify our conundrum. Let’s talk about brick walls. The truth is, there’s a hidden brick wall hovering in the cloud, as it relates to access and control. When it comes to the level of access and control required to integrate with third-party extensions, the differences between Software-as-a-Service and private cloud architectures are monumental. 

On the SaaS side of the wall, interactions are only allowed at the API-level of the parent application. Conversely, a private cloud platform can allow interactions at any level, whether the API, the business logic level, or even at the database, if necessary.

As such, understanding the necessary level of access and control to support hybrid cloud integrations is fundamental to a successful cloud migration. If you move your base ERP system onto a platform that the third-party applications cannot successfully interact with, you might discover that you’ve left several applications behind, no longer able to leverage them as part of your hybrid cloud ecosystem. I have seen cases where customers moved their ERP systems to a Software-as-a-Service deployments, only to realize that they had to essentially re-write their third-party integrations, and even some of their third-party applications entirely, to be able to interact with their new SaaS platform. They ran head first into the cloud’s hidden brick wall and spent six months of development and integration time and expense for their troubles.

While the explanations are metaphorical, the implications are as real as it gets. Are you considering a migration to the cloud? Carefully consider the implications. Take a thorough audit of the third-party extensions that comprise your hybrid ecosystem, and understand how they are constructed.

Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure Integrations

 Then understand how they might also migrate in order to be able to interact with the parent ERP system in each deployment scenario, be it in a SaaS environment or as part of a private cloud. These considerations can help save a lot of grief and trauma during implementation, so make them before you bind yourself to a given path.

Mixed metaphors, even in hybrid cloud infrastructure, are rarely a good thing, so I doubt I’ll run into many mushy mollusks swimming though the ether and squishing themselves up against hidden walls in my future cloud adventures. Until then, I will have my eyes set on both the sky and the sea.

Watch a “Cloud Stories” Webinar on Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure for ERP Systems