Lawson Cloud Plan Taps Amazon EC2 - InformationWeek

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4/9/2010
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Lawson Cloud Plan Taps Amazon EC2

ERP vendor targets test, peak-load and disaster recovery scenarios as well as would-be SaaS customers.

Lawson Software's External Cloud Services, announced last week, will bring the company's on-premise ERP and Talent Management software to customers by way of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). It's hardly a novel route to cloud computing, but Lawson cites a number of reasons the approach will appeal to midsize enterprise customers.

The first appeal of the cloud is testing. Lawson Cloud Services on EC2 will include a Test Drive option for software trials and application prototyping. Test Drive will let customers use Lawson software with their own processes and data for up to 14 days without committing to a purchase or services subscription.

"With Test Drive, we can get the software running within one day and connect to the customer's existing data," said Jeff Comport, Lawson's senior vice president of product development, in an interview with Intelligent Enterprise. "This lets customers test the full functionality of the application before making a buying decision."

Three other scenarios that call for cloud flexibility are mergers and acquisitions, peak demand periods and disaster recovery. With automated provisioning of software instances through Amazon, Lawson said it can quickly accommodate new users and workload spikes. And in a disaster recovery scenario, organizations could rely on Amazon as a backup data center.

"The cloud is economical and it's highly redundant, so it's a great choice for disaster recovery," Comport said. "We can restart against a customer's configuration with instances that are prepared and ready to go."

Disaster recovery does not mean fail-over to a hot standby in the cloud; thus, it might require an hour, Comport said, rather than seconds, to get up and running using backup data on EC2. Nonetheless, the company already has its first disaster-recovery customer: the government of Scott County, Minnesota. The county already hosts its ERP software with Lawson Managed Services. As a beta customer of Lawson Eternal Cloud Services, Scott County has moved its Lawson S3 ERP application onto Amazon for disaster recovery.

"Our testing has shown [this approach] to be safe, reliable and secure, and Lawson made the move to Amazon simple and easy," said Kevin Ellsworth, chief financial officer of Scott County, in a statement from Lawson. "Once we understood the benefits of having Lawson host our disaster recovery on AWS, we asked ourselves: 'why wouldn't we do this?'"

Critics might say that Lawson has taken a shortcut to the cloud by simply hosting its software on EC2. After all, the company hasn't reengineered its software for multi-tenancy, the architectural approach used by most software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers. Comport counters that by relying on Amazon's multi-tenant infrastructure, Lawson can bring midsize firms software that's more complete than what's available from SaaS competitors Workday and NetSuite or low-end, on-premise providers such as Microsoft Dynamics.

"In the past we've lost deals where companies were interested in our full-function ERP, compared to simpler products, but they hesitated about the amount of infrastructure required," Comport said. "With Lawson Cloud Services, that infrastructure is completely hidden and delivered transparently through Amazon." Advanced purchase management, procurement, order management and production planning scenarios are areas where Lawson applications have an edge over simpler offerings, Comport said.

Lawson External Cloud Services on Amazon are set for release in May. Services will include the vendor's S2 ERP for service organizations, M3 ERP for manufacturing and Lawson Talent Management for human resources. The company declined to detail pricing, but Comport said customers will have options to convert monthly subscriptions to perpetually licensed software that can be run on Amazon EC2, hosted as a managed service or deployed on premises.

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