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Trailer Telematics: How Cloud Technology is Driving Success

Trailer Telematics: How Cloud Technology is Driving Success

As trucking companies move closer to the goal of driverless vehicles, the technology that will enable this mission continues to improve. With this improvement comes a vast amount of information regarding the status of a given load. Enter the fleet of trailer telematics fueled by cloud technology.

Trailer Telematics Cloud Technology

What is trailer telematics?

Trailer telematics refers to a suite of technologies that provides the visibility needed to allow fleet managers to better control the key elements that impact the effectiveness of their fleet out in the field:

  • Finding viable trailers to use out in the field
  • Optimizing the rate that trailers get loaded, to ensure that as many tractors as possible have a viable load
  • Providing alerts when pickups and deliveries are made
  • Tracking the location and status of trailers between the point of load and the point of delivery
  • Tracking the status of various elements of a trailer (wheels, lights, etc.) to ensure that they are in working order

How does trailer telematics work?

Essentially, a suite of devices are installed on a given trailer, and these devices monitor various aspects of the trailer in question, and relay them back to a cloud server, where the data is delivered back to the trailer owner, normally via a web interface.  

The presence of cloud technology here is key.

Telematics companies are really SaaS solution providers masquerading as hardware dealers, and this allows for surprising extensions in functionality. While many of these capabilities are reactive in nature, an additional and still-evolving benefit to these technologies is the ability to provide predictive analytics to proactively react to potential problems.

With all of this data in the cloud, the application of AI analytics allows providers to mine this raw data for useful information, which can allow companies to proactively manage everything from security to regulations:

What does this mean for distributors?

For distributors leveraging their own fleet, the benefits should be self-evident — better opportunities to keep trucks on the road. But even for distributors working through third-party logistics providers, there are several potential benefits that might be available.    

Location Control

One immediate opportunity relates to visibility of delivery. The location control aspects of telematics allow for a real-time understanding of where your delivery currently resides, whether incoming or outgoing. This should allow distributors to plan for the realities of delivery timing, while also providing opportunities for expediting, negotiation, and accountability management in real time, allowing proactive companies to be the “squeakiest wheel” on the trailer.

Time and Tracking

As customers demand tighter delivery schedules, the ability to track your product to the day and to hour becomes critical, and your 3PL (third-party logistics) should, at some point, be able to provide this level of information. Moreover, as trailer location control becomes a reality, the ability to locate and schedule backhauls, based on the specific location of a given rig at any moment, becomes a reality.

Cloud technology helps distributors get the information they need to stay competitive.

The lesson to be learned here is that the information is out there, and it’s only getting better. Ask your freight provider whether they have that information, and how they can make it available to you.

Wondering how cloud technology will fit into your distribution technology plan for 2022 and beyond? Contact our cloud specialists today. Our IT industry experts would love to begin a conversation about trailer telematics solutions, supply chain management, data analytics, or other trends affecting distributors of the future. Reduce costs today by moving your trailer data to the EstesCloud platform, a private cloud hosting solution with hybrid cloud options. Support your telematics technology with help from our cloud consultants.

EstesCloud is the ultimate cybersecurity and backup and disaster recovery solution for manufacturers and distributors. Keep web-enabled and web-driven data safe. Secure your telematics devices through the preventative maintenance strategy of cutting-edge cloud technology. Private cloud technology helps you reduce maintenance costs while also protecting you against the risks of highly connected solutions like trailer telematics systems. Got trailer tracking on your company roadmap? The weather’s never been better to drive your commercial vehicles into a custom cloud built to fit the needs of your business. Smart cloud, smart trailer.

Two Sides to Every Cloud ERP Adoption Story

Two Sides to Every Cloud ERP Adoption Story

Understanding Your Move to the Cloud

Cloud adoption is often as unique as your company culture. However, the common benefits of cloud adoption abound. You can save time and money while increasing security, availability, and scalability. If you choose a cloud-based ERP deployment, what do you need for a successful cloud migration? Do you need to have a Shakespearean team ready to write the future story of your company? Once on the stage, will your cloud adoption tale be a tragedy or a comedy? Let’s try to understand the people behind your move to the cloud to better write your cloud adoption plan.

  • Cloud experts (consultants, migration specialists, engineers)
  • Enterprise resource planning experts (ERP consultants, trained employees)
  • Decision makers (steering committee members, owners, leaders)
  • Cloud ERP users (internal staff, external support)
  • Data center staff (consultants, architects, engineers, help desk team members)
Cloud Adoption Cloud ERP Adoption Plan

Do you need cloud-savvy ERP experts on your team?

Make better decisions when moving your business applications to the cloud by balancing your decision-making team with your hands-on enterprise resource planning (ERP) talent. You can save even more time and money by supporting your in-house managers with ERP and cloud ERP consultants or experts when needed.

Quick Cloud ERP Adoption Planning Tip

An independent ERP consultancy can offer you an unbiased view of your decisions ahead, especially when it comes to newer technology and software releases. 

Who will write your first line of cloud code?

Choosing a cloud for an ERP system might begin with someone on your IT team who has a progressive vision for the technological management of your company. Or, an ERP system, like Epicor Kinetic or Epicor Prophet 21, might be purchased simultaneously with cloud ERP project team formation and then guided by key players, such as company owners, CEOs, CIOs, and onward.

Understanding Your Business Cloud Requirements

A cloud ERP vendor might try to convince you that Software as a Service (SaaS) is your best, even your only, option. However, before you sign up for a data migration to a public cloud, consider private cloud or hybrid cloud platforms

An ERP solution adapts to your unique cloud strategy. Once you understand your cloud ERP solution options and decide that your project plan should indeed migrate away from on-premise infrastructure, it’s time to solidify teams and team strategies. Your ERP implementation team needs both thinkers and doers.

The Thinkers

Your steering group will monitor the progress of your project ensuring it stays on track to complete on time and on budget. This group also will provide support for the project making sure needed resources are available to the project as needed and helping to backfill when those resources are taken from another part of the business.

The project manager is part of this group. Regularly the project manager will provide status reports and predictions for the immediate future of the project. An executive sponsor represents top management and is part of the steering group. That person will report project status to the C-level team. 

When there is a champion who was instrumental in moving the software acquisition along and likes their role keeping the business excited about the prospect the software will bring, that champion should be on the steering group. Some representation from departments and functions that will use the new software might also have a seat in this group.

The Doers

Your cloud ERP implementation team should include leaders from departments across the business. They are directly involved in the overall implementation of this software and its IT infrastructure and, in most cases, they and their peers will use the new software daily. Most of the people in this group will be full-time talent serving on the software project but will keep in contact with their former co-workers in the functions they came from.

Often people who were group managers get assigned to this group, but there is no reason to limit the team to managers or former managers. Team members should be passionate about the new ERP system, its infrastructure, and the benefits expected. They should be very knowledgeable in their particular function and have some expertise in the use of the ERP software and process flows throughout the business. 

Members of the cloud ERP implementation team will coordinate work in sub-teams that will test transactions related to their functional area. As testing progresses, cloud ERP team members will coordinate testing that extends to more than one function.

This group of people must keep in contact with their previous functional groups ensuring they know about any new changes or challenges. Managers of those functions will want to know the progress of the software implementation and will want to make choices when options in the implementation arise.

This team will help set up training and the training processes that will be used to share knowledge developed during implementation with the users who will need that knowledge to do their work with the new system.

Implementation team members do not need to be information technology gurus. They should understand some basic concepts related to IT and databases. This team will be directly involved in capturing legacy data and moving that data to the new software and, ultimately, to the cloud infrastructure of your choosing.

Look for the following indicators of a successful cloud adoption plan execution when choosing your cloud provider, your data center, and your cloud ERP implementation partner:

  • Is this a vendor trying to upsell you? Can a vendor-managed SaaS ERP system support your growing business?
  • Can your cloud provider meet your budget needs while adapting to your project timeline?
  • Does your cloud provider have a strong history and good reputation?
  • Does your cloud provider’s data center meet your needs for uptime and security?
  • Does your potential cloud ERP partner provide staff that will fit into your ERP culture?
  • Will the cloud provider understand your enterprise resource planning methodology and serve as a source of expertise for your ERP software and the full spectrum of its deployment options?

Will cloud ERP adoption improve your business today?

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software implementation is a long, challenging commitment that involves dozens of people working together toward a common goal. Your go-live in the cloud will be one of the most rewarding and promising days in your company’s story. You can expect immediate results as soon as your team is empowered by both the software and its underlying technology.

To begin work as cloud ERP implementation team members, training is key. Your cloud provider will enroll your team in an in-depth training for your new cloud-based ERP system. Your team will learn how cloud computing works, especially from the cybersecurity aspect, and will quickly become astute through real-time support for the new business processes. Part of the training will be introductions to developers and system support personnel at your cloud provider. Implementation team members will not need to solve every problem but will know where to look for the answers.

EstesGroup provides on-premise ERP expertise while also fully supporting cloud migrations to private clouds, hybrid clouds, and SaaS projects. Are you ready to take advantage of internet connectivity to move beyond on-site servers? Do you need help building a cloud ERP plan for 2022? We have Epicor Kinetic ERP hosting, Epicor Prophet 21 ERP hosting, Sage hosting, and Syspro hosting experts standing by, ready to answer your questions about cloud migrations for both new and old ERP systems. Our experts can help you meet your business requirements so that you stay competitive while reducing cost across your infrastructure.

Epicor Kinetic Upgrade: A Customer Perspective

Epicor Kinetic Upgrade: A Customer Perspective

An Interview with an Epicor Kinetic User

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with an Epicor customer to discuss their recent upgrade to Epicor Kinetic 2021.1. For many Epicor customers, this is a decision they will be facing in the next 12 months since the Epicor lifecycle for 10.2.700 will create a decision point in September 2022.

During the discussion, we covered a lot of questions that are commonly asked. My hope is that what you learn here will be an input to your thought process about when and how to upgrade to Epicor Kinetic.
Epicor Kinetic Upgrade

Conservation of Manufacturing Energy

Epicor History

This customer has been using Epicor for almost 8 years after they went live on version 10x. After the implementation they fell into the habit of not upgrading on a cadence. They regretted this because it made upgrades more challenging. Plus maintaining an Epicor upgrade cadence would have benefited them with better Epicor support, fixes, and new features. In their situation they were faced with upgrading to Epicor Kinetic from V10.2.200.

They currently have 35 users and expect to expand to 50 users in the next 12 months. They do light manufacturing and lean more to the distribution side of the spectrum. They also use Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and a Business Intelligence (BI) solution that interfaces with Epicor.

Upgrade to Kinetic

The upgrade process took them about 90 days of effort. Knowing that future upgrades are released regularly, they invested front-end effort into documenting their business processes, end-user procedures and customizations. They also developed standard test plans that they can reuse in the future when they need to do upgrades.

They are expecting this investment to pay off as they move to 2021.2 later this Fall. During the upgrade preparation they took some time to clean up reports on the system, review their over 300 dashboards and look for ways to reduce the complexity and number of customizations that had accumulated over the years.
They then did very thorough testing in a Pilot Kinetics environment. The testing used formal test plans with each department supporting the effort. They ran all reports and validated cross-functional capabilities of the new system using a copy of their production 10.x data. As they found issues, they created solutions and documented them.

Reports

They found that many of their reports didn’t fully convert over to the new Kinetics format. So, they reached out to get external SSRS support for conversion of these reports. They were able to resolve any conversion issues with their dashboard reports using internal resources. This typically involved compiling them in the new environment and then saving them in the new Kinetic format.

Menus

They also set up two separate menu structures, one with a Kinetic look and one with the Classic look. This allowed users who were hesitant to use the new Kinetic menus some time to adjust. They estimate that they will transition all users away from the Classic view over a nine-month period.

Epicor Kinetic Upgrade Process

The actual upgrade was done on the 3rd weekend of the month to avoid month-end closing activities. They pre-arranged for necessary on-call support and proceeded with the upgrade. It finished and they applied any solutions they had discovered during testing. Then they tested the overall functionality using some pre-determined tests. No glaring issues were found so they were able to release the environment to users.

They found that the minor kinks that remained took them about 30-45 days to resolve. They were pleased that there were no issues with user permissions after the upgrade or with printing and labels.

Lessons Learned

Here are a few Epicor Kinetic upgrade suggestions from the customer perspective:

  • Make sure you have the necessary licenses for your Pilot environment,
  • Don’t forget the testing of integrations that access or share data with Epicor,
  • Make sure that department heads sign off on the test plans, so they understand any gaps/concerns, and
  • Consider using the developed Test Plans to next create new End User Documentation.

In the end, they felt like the Epicor Kinetic upgrade was more of a UI and programming change than a lot of new features for their users.

One More Thing

In retrospect they had one other recommendation that I found valuable.

Since the new Kinetics Users Interface (UI) allows all Forms to be displayed in any popular browser, there is an important decision to make. The decision is whether to allow Users to access Epicor from personal devices (tablets, home computers, phones). Most companies will have security concerns that will affect this decision. In their case, they decided to not allow users to use personal devices for accessing the Epicor application.

Overall, this customer was pleased with the upgraded UI. They found that the new UI is cleaner and more modern. Plus, the users like the ability to sort, and rearrange columns on the screen. In version 2021.1 some of the features they needed still required them to use the Classic interface, but the new release 2021.2 seems to have resolved these problems.

For now, the largest issue has been helping users make the transition to the new User Interface. Some users felt it was a steep learning curve for them and others didn’t. It confirmed for them that users rarely like change particularly in the screens they use each day. That’s why it is important to give them time to experiment and view the new interface well before any upgrade.

The I.T. department didn’t see any speed issues with processing under the new release. And they are looking forward to not having to install/upgrade clients on user laptops/desktops as they fully use the new Kinetics interface. 

I hope this quick look at one client’s experience will provide some background for your decision-making and spur some questions that your organization needs to explore. If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out to us.

Ask the Author about your Kinetic ERP Project

Rob Mcmillen ERP Consultant

Rob McMillen is a Senior Project Manager with EstesGroup. He has worked in the manufacturing industry for over 30 years supporting multiple implementations of new ERP systems and leading projects. Because his mom was an English teacher, he grew up with a love of writing. Combined with his working experience, he has written articles for LinkedIn and User Groups, and has published numerous blog posts. He is also a co-author of a book on technology and working collaboratively. He currently lives in the DFW area. Ask Rob a question now by clicking here to visit our “Ask An Expert” page.

Do you need help with keeping your ERP project kinetic?

For 18 years, EstesGroup has helped manufacturers and distributors implement, optimize, and support their ERP systems. With veteran consultants highly skilled in both the old Epicor ERP versions and in the latest version, our upgrade service is all-inclusive. Our Cloud ERP experts can help you understand everything from data migration to upgrade tools. We support companies on every version of Epicor, so whether you want to maintain your old system or upgrade to the latest release, you’ll find everything you need to make your application studio shine. 

Kinetic Epicor ERP Project

Are software upgrades or technology upgrades in your future? Our IT experts are here to help with your business. Are you wondering how to upgrade to Epicor Kinetic? Rather than focusing on your Epicor software, or other ERP system, focus on the work you love. Let our Epicor Kinetic experts do the busy work, the maintenance, and the specialized tasks while you focus on manufacturing. Put your data in a private cloud hosted environment for ultimate backup & disaster recovery and cybersecurity.

What Cloud is Your Cloud Provider On?

What Cloud is Your Cloud Provider On?

ERP Hosting is Better Than a Trip to the Ice Cream Parlor

The age of “mass customization” pervades many areas of our business and personal lives. The general populace has grown accustomed to being able to “dial in” solutions as needed, especially when it comes to products and services. Tailored solutions have become a competitive advantage, if not a necessity, these days, and every cloud provider claims variety and customizability, even in the ever-so rigid atmosphere of SaaS (Software as a Service). If you’re looking for a cloud provider for your ERP (enterprise resource planning) application, do you ask where your new infrastructure team will actually cloud your data?

Ice cream parlors have been playing the variety card for decades. I have always been a fan of a good sundae—a little of this, a sprinkle of that, one flavor, two… the combinations are endless, as are the effects on my palate. But no two ice cream parlors are created equal. Similarly, no two cloud providers are created equal. Sometimes it feels like there are no standards that govern what it exactly means to be “flexible” in the cloud or to have “scalability” in the cloud. Like with ice cream parlors, sometimes vanilla is nothing more than artificial vanilla flavoring. This means that as a cloud solutions buyer, you need to understand the unique build of your server infrastructure before you sign the cloud services agreement.

Cloud Provider for ERP Business Applications

In the cloud computing world, an ice cream sundae model for ERP application deployment is a natural progression of the mass customization movement. After all, flexibility and scalability are defining features of cloud computing.

Nevertheless, the big players in cloud solutions continue to pull us back into a world of vanilla (or vanilla flavoring). Tiered pricing models, service bundles, rigid step-progressions, and consumption models that do not adjust for seasonality leave many cloud customers feeling like they are trapped in an artificial vanilla apocalypse. Cloud computing is defined by its flexibility, but you wouldn’t know this when reading the fine print of your IT service contract.

That is to say, application deployment is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, even if your cloud provider is positioning it in that manner.

Some customers, with small footprints and standard business requirements, fit nicely within a software as a service (SaaS) framework when it comes to deploying ERP systems. However, many customers of greater size and complexity struggle with the limitations of SaaS. They want levels of access and control that are not normally afforded by SaaS deployment models. But exactly what a customer wants and needs differs from customer to customer. For suppliers offering very rigid solution sets, this can be a problem. 

Some customers want a level of access and control that SaaS can’t support. They still want their cloud server stack micro-managed, but they don’t have the internal resources to perform the management. These customers lean toward managed ERP hosting, which falls more closely under a platform as a service (PaaS) model, where the solution provider manages the infrastructure and application platform layers, and the customer consumes the final output.  

Other customers have the in-house staff and expertise to manage their own architecture. They want the solution provider to set up an ecosystem, but intend to take ownership and management of that ecosystem thereafter. These folks don’t need managed hosting, as they can perform any micro-management themselves. The solutions to satisfy these customers fall more under an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) model, where the solution provider provides the infrastructure, and the management of the application layer is the client’s responsibility.

But such simple distinctions between PaaS and IaaS seem too rigid for many customers. Many customers want something in between. They desire a combination of service, access, control, and responsibility. A sprinkle of this, a dash of that, a little smooth, a little crunchy. 

As a customer, you need to make sure your cloud solution provider can lay out the various features and options that comprise their solution and help you work though a combination that fits your business. This might involve user provisioning, backup and disaster recovery, performance monitoring and tuning, or general application administration. Whatever the case, make sure your cloud solution provider is not trying to drown you in vanilla.

A Few More Clouds (and Cloud Providers) to Ponder

What types of cloud computing would you trust with your ERP software deployment? If you are considering managed hosting, are you looking for other managed services as well, such as cloud security services? Are you looking for a flexible data center for a hybrid cloud deployment, perhaps with pricing on a pay-as-you-go basis. Do you know your hardware and software needs? When you open a web browser on a corporate computer, do you know if any of your business data is kept in a public cloud?

Are you in need of a tailored cloud solution for your ERP application’s deployment?

5 Signs Your Business Needs Cybersecurity Training

5 Signs Your Business Needs Cybersecurity Training

Cybersecurity Education Begins With Ownership

Small and medium sized business owners beware! 65% of attacks that originate in cyberspace are aimed at companies that think they’re too small to be of interest to cybercriminals. If you think you’re at low risk, read on and see why our IT security consultants recommend cybersecurity training for everyone.

Cybersecurity Training Hacker in Network Security Lock

Are you a small business owner? Or are you a once-small company now grown into the medium range of corporate presence? When it comes to cybersecurity solutions for businesses, you always have to structure your services and behavior to prepare as if you’re bigger than you are. This involves a comprehensive security solution that covers your entire company network, from suppliers to employees. Do you have an enterprise-level cybersecurity strategy that protects every connection and end user from digital harm?

If you own a business, you know how precious your data is to daily operations. Profitability depends on good data management behaviors. Because all companies are vulnerable to hackers, your data should be presumed insecure. Cybersecurity should be a proactive approach to cybercrime, rather than a reactive (disaster recovery) move.

Are you on a cybercrime watchlist?

Breaches happen, even to the most prepared companies. Therefore, your risk management policies should be revisited frequently. Business owners should be part of this process. A board of advisors might be beneficial, and it can be cost-effective to outsource this high-level cybersecurity work to a virtual CIO or to a firm with the technology skills that guarantee security for your data.

What happens when a hacker is watching your business?

It takes about a half of a year for business owners to become aware that a hacker has breached the network. It also takes about two months to react to a cyber attack. 

Here are five signs your business is at risk and in need of cybersecurity training:

1. You are a small or medium size business.

Far less likely to report cybercrime to the authorities, small and midsized companies are viewed by hackers as a low-risk target. Manufacturers and distributors are often looking to scale, and maintaining a good reputation is key to a successful future. As a growing business, you wouldn’t want your reputation to include a history of victimization by way of ransomware.

2. You think it’s a small problem or that someone else is addressing the issue of cyber safety.

Fear of expense often prevents small and midsize manufacturers and distributors from securing the technology solutions and services they need to protect their data. A good backup solution isn’t enough, even though this is what many company owners depend on for risk management. When planning your IT department budget, price out outsourced help, especially when it comes to cybersecurity. Often, the experts at an IT managed services provider (MSP) will be more friendly to the budget than on-site technology staff.

3. You think you need to cut the IT budget… but IT costs are actually decreasing.

Firewalls and phishing filters are a necessity these days. Due to a mix of popularity and availability, technology cost trends show that business owners can get enterprise-level technology services with affordable pricing. Cloud-based IT services, such as SECaaS (Security as a Service) look at the unique needs of your business and adjust pricing accordingly. Only pay for what you need.

4. Your employees don’t know what they don’t know.

Cybersecurity training might be the most important activity you schedule for the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022. The time is now. Hackers take advantage of poorly trained employees on a daily basis. 95% of security breaches are successful because of human error. Train, train, and train again. Technology is an ever-evolving field, and this ripples into the dark web as cutting-edge malware. Protecting your talented staff from the dark web is key to employee retention in today’s culture.

Fortunately, cyber education is often free online. Formal training is easy on the budget. If you have a million customers relying on your manufacturing operations to maintain uptime, your cyber security plan needs to defend more than credit card numbers and social security numbers. You need an IT solution that comprehensively protects the countless connections along your supply chain, right down to the home offices of your remote workers. 

Sign up for a ransomware simulation attack today to see if your employees are ready for disaster. Employees are eager to learn security breach mitigation strategies because their personal information is at risk in the event of a data leak. Information security begins with security training.

5. You’re likely to pay the ransom if you are attacked.

More than half of small businesses pay a ransom. Reasons revolve around damage control: you definitely don’t want your data or your reputation harmed by a ransomware attack, so in the moment you are likely to pay the attacker. If you think you’d be likely to pay a ransomer to get your data back, then you stand unprepared. Once you have a solid cybersecurity plan in place with a crew of talented IT staff to support your solutions, you’ll know that you’ll never pay a hacker a dime of your earnings. In the event that you experience a breach, you’ll know that you have an incident response plan that won’t involve a ransom payment.

Today’s cyber landscape is riddled with massive corporations hitting the news for million-dollar ransomware attacks. When was your last security audit? It’s better to act as a big little company in a technology culture in which the hackers are frequently more skilled than even the best IT staff.

  • Empower your workers with the best solutions so that they can use their talents to their full extent.
  • Prevent identity theft of employees by securing personal data and corporate data.
  • Bring in a white hat hacker to test both onsite and remote cybersecurity solutions and services.

Can your staff respond properly to a data breach? Do you have an incident response plan clearly delineated so that all employees understand your disaster recovery process? Have employees been thoroughly trained to recognize cyber threats lurking in their email accounts as phishing attempts?

Cybersecurity training involves both on-premise and cloud-based breach mitigation techniques. EstesGroup offers coast-to-coast onsite and cloud IT services, including everything from project and budget planning to education and monitoring.

Scaling Up & Scaling Out in a P21 Ecosystem

Scaling Up & Scaling Out in a P21 Ecosystem

P21 System Performance in Accordance

When deploying any enterprise-level application such as Epicor’s Prophet 21 ERP, system performance is an extremely important consideration, one that can have significant impact on the successful use of the application. Memory allocation, transaction logging, network connections and a litany of other factors can affect the user community’s experience of the application. Failures in any one of these areas can bring an application to a grinding halt. This is certainly the case in a P21 environment.

As such, the work of a P21 administrator is critical in the successful deployment and maintenance of the Prophet 21 ecosystem.

While the successful administration of a P21 environment will differ on several factors, such as the version installed, the presence of a middleware server, the use of terminal services, and the use of the legacy desktop application, the actions taken to attain, maintain, and sustain a P21 ecosystem can be summarized by the two following principles:

  • Scaling Up: Stacking up resources onto a single existing server, user terminal, network, or device to allow it to perform better and bear additional load.
  • Scaling Out: Branching out by breaking out additional servers, terminals, network connections or devices to improve the capacity and capability of the overall P21 infrastructure.

Scaling up in a Prophet 21 Ecosystem

Scaling up involves the addition of resources, most often to a server, to address issues with usage and performance. In many cases, the performance of a single server, whether it is an application server, a database server or a user terminal, can be improved by identifying the problem in question and judiciously allocating some additional resources, such as RAM, CPU, or storage.

Let’s use the Prophet 21 desktop application as an example. The architecture of the legacy desktop application was such that a single desktop client generally consumed one entire CPU when in use. This creates a challenge for terminal services, given that two users logged into the same terminal server cannot share the same CPU, as is the case with other applications.

To address this, system administrators need to “scale up” and add CPUs to the terminal server, to allow multiple users to work from it in parallel. This is of course easier to do when the computer is virtualized, so admins will want to consider this should they have the need to build out a remote desktop for their user community. Depending on the number of users in your company, such an approach to your P21 environment may be satisfactory. 

With the shift from the legacy P21 desktop application to the P21 middleware server, the concern with scale similarly shifts. Scaling up under the modern architecture now involves the resources allocated to a given middleware server to allow it to handle heavier loads. Even here, it is not uncommon that companies encounter scaling issues with the P21 middleware server, as the company grows. In many cases, the answer is not to scale up, but to scale out.

Scaling out in a Prophet 21 Ecosystem

Using the example of the Prophet 21 desktop application, a company can scale up a single remote desktop so high before the additional building blocks no longer elevate its cause. In the case of a remote desktop, a single terminal server can support approximately 12 CPUs to support roughly 15 users working in parallel—any further and the platform begins to bend under the weight of its own design.

In this case, it is preferable to spin up a separate P21 terminal server to support additional user requirements, and to integrate the multiple servers with a broker to create a server farm.

A similar but updated concern relates to Epicor’s middleware application server layer, and the number of users it can support. As with the development of a Prophet 21 server farm for remote desktops, the need might arise to create a load-balanced farm of Prophet 21 middleware servers, in order to meet user needs.

The shift from a 2-tiered architecture, in which the fat client speaks directly to the database to a 3-tiered architecture, where the thin client speaks to the middleware server naturally shifts much of the heavy lifting from the traditional desktop client to the P21 middleware server itself. 

Again, the specifications are ambiguous, but we’ve found that often a single Prophet 21 middleware server can be scaled up such that it will support roughly 50 concurrent users before the server can no longer perform any additional heavy lifting. In these cases, it is preferable to build out a new Prophet 21 middleware server in a load-balanced environment.

P21 Economies of Scale

In practice, helping users often involves some combination of scaling up and scaling out. It begins with an understanding of the scope and limitations of the Prophet 21 architecture and an understanding of the size of the user community and their needs. From there, the combinations and permutations become an intriguing and multifaceted challenge for the P21 administrator to circumnavigate.

P21 Ecosystem Server Upgrade Cartoon