“I was actually a customer of Infor before I joined the organization,” remembers Joseph Pascaretta, Vice President & General Manager Infor OS at Infor, USA. “I liked it as an organization so much that I joined the company. It feels like a large start-up.” Massimo Capoccia, Senior Vice President Infor OS, Technology confirms: “I have a career where I’ve had the opportunity to build a platform from scratch, from the beginning. That has been an amazing journey.”
Between them, Pascaretta and Capoccia have over 16 years’ experience at Infor. Headquartered in New York and with 168 offices globally, as well as over 15,000 employees serving 68,000 customers, Infor is a global leader in business cloud software products for companies in industry specific markets. “We believe that data is really at the center of unleashing human potential,” says Pascaretta. “We have an Intelligent Cloud Digital Gateway: a way to be able to bring all of that data together, but then allow organizations to innovate effectively and quickly, leveraging real tools and assets all delivered in the Cloud.”
From the Infor OS API gateway and integration of third-party applications, to its own Coleman Artificial Intelligence (AI), to an infinitely scalable Data Lake, Infor understands the necessity for powerful machine learning systems to handle the vast quantities of data inherent to Industry 4.0. Infor is applying machine learning to Big Data and scaling it infinitely using the power of cloud computing. Pascaretta notes that the integration of data, AI and cloud scalability is “the huge value proposition of what we're doing and the major differentiator”. He adds: “No other enterprise software organization is doing what we're doing. They're doing elements of it in pockets and silos, but not all together as one integrated platform solution delivered fully in the Cloud.”
“Thinking about data as the critical asset is really the foundation of all this,” says Pascaretta. Traditionally, companies store data in data warehouses which filter all incoming data that has already been processed for specific purposes. “The first mistake that enterprise organizations make when you want to have data storage for multiple person consumption is that they think that the data warehouse is the place to be,” notes Capoccia. “But that's actually what people were doing five or 10 years ago.” With the ever-increasing quantities of data enterprises are presented with, the necessary approach Infor recognises is to pair Big Data with AI applications. “If you want to use the same data that has been filtered for analytics for an AI application, you're going to miss a lot of other types of data,” Massimo explains. “If you want to do an enterprise search, you're going to miss other types of data as well. So, a data warehouse is not complete, per se. You need a different type of storage that allows you to store structured and unstructured data all together in a very cheap way.”
This is where Infor’s Data Lake comes into play. “The Data Lake stays on Amazon Web Services (AWS) AmazonS3 technology, which is available all the time and is very cheap and scalable,” Capoccia explains, adding that the Data Lake stores “all the transactions, all the market data, all the documents, all the IoT readings”. “Everything you think of when you think about data – it can go there,” he adds. “From the Infor Data Lake, we will integrate automatically with a data warehouse. We have an elastic search as well as an index, so you can search the data warehouse even built for indexing data like you would do with a Google search.”
Infor ensures the security of its Data Lake using its proprietary security platform. “We have a huge investment in security,” says Massimo. “We provide a single sign-on, user management, and permission management platforms.” Traditionally, there is a danger of gaps in security appearing between a core platform and third-party software, but Infor prides itself on the degree to which its OS integrates with third-party applications. “Even if you would build an application on top of Infor, maybe an AOI platform, it would still respect the security,” Capoccia notes.
Once Infor has gathered a customer’s data, its AI and analytics services come into play. “Being able to consume and leverage analytics and business intelligence across all of an enterprise’s back-end systems is definitely key,” says Pascaretta. “So we leverage our Infor Birst Analytics platform that is designed to optimize complex business processes. The idea is that it's faster time to value and it's deployed in the cloud. So once you have that data together, being able to see into the data and leverage analytics and business intelligence around it is definitely critical.”
Named after the inspiring physicist and mathematician Katherine Coleman Johnson, whose trail-blazing work helped NASA land on the moon, Infor’s Coleman AI platform represents a giant leap for artificial intelligence at scale. This platform allows users to retrieve, analyse and leverage data into business decisions such as preventative maintenance, inventory optimization and inventory predictions. The Infor Coleman AI platform also recognizes patterns in behavior to help businesses automate processes like purchasing. “Every time multiple users ask a question, we'll apply machine learning to optimize the answers back to the users,” Capoccia explains. Coleman’s automation services also extend to ordering and invoicing. To transfer paper invoices to a digital format for Coleman, Infor has partnered with Ephesoft for its ocular character recognition (OCR) needs.
With such a strong focus on proprietary software, Infor draws a sharp divide between high investment, high focus in-house products and the use of trusted third-party partners also working on the cutting edge of tech. “We really believe in offering complete solutions, both on the platform and on the application. So if a functionality is not really our core, we partner with a third party,” says Capoccia.
“HCL Technologies is another one of our great strategic partners, not only from an implementation side but also for next generation digital transformation engineering and delivery,” Pascaretta adds. He explains that HCL provides customer-specific engineering expertise when a client wants “to take their technology to the next level”. The two companies first partnered in 2015, with HCL dedicating hundreds of employees to support Infor.
2019 will be an exciting year for Infor, Pascaretta and Capoccia agree. The Infor Data Lake will have a global compliance platform built on top of its existing security systems, and new features on Coleman AI are set to launch, as well as Infor OS support for external users. “Once you have data, being able to unleash and innovate - that's a key thing to what we're providing,” Pascaretta concludes.