An intriguing ERP automation problem
A potential client contacted SMA Technologies a few months ago with an interesting technical challenge: prove that our OpCon workload automation platform can run Infor M3 batch jobs in the Infor Cloudsuite. We accepted the challenge and did a proof of concept showing, authoritatively, that OpCon and our automation engineers are up to the task.
Without giving away trade secrets, we want to walk through how we approached this technical challenge and created a solution that required zero customization of our existing out of the box tools.
Background on client
The client is a global material sciences company specializing in researching and manufacturing various vinyl and nylon products. Their IT environment consists of locations across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. They operate a not uncommon mix of modern and legacy systems, including 3+ instances of Infor M3.
They wanted to gain the cost savings and ease of management that Infor's cloud offerings can deliver for M3. Their current automation provider could not provide them with a satisfactory solution, so they contacted SMA Technologies due to our experience automating M3 environments.
What was the fundamental challenge we were trying to solve?
Get Infor jobs to run in the Infor cloud using an automation platform.
One issue you run into when communicating with cloud endpoints is that to perform a simple task, such as running a job and getting notified of the success/failure, it requires multiple steps.
Step 1- pass user login and password and receive an authentication token.
Step 2- Use the token to access the controller and initiate the job.
Step 3- Monitor the job and wait till it successfully finishes or sends an error code.
In a traditional process, these are three different jobs you have to script. It ends up clogging up your scheduling program with excess jobs that all need to be managed and version controlled. The more complicated a task is, the more jobs required to get the initiation, monitoring, and notification results organizations typically look for.
What was the acceptable success condition?
Authenticate, run, and monitor a 3-step Infor ION API job.
*We'd like to note that we can put far more than three steps into a single workflow, but for the proof of concept, the client only asked for three.
What kind of technical info did we need from the customer?
The Infor API is a private API, so we needed the client's access to it to see how the interface operated. Other than that, we only required a username and password to access their Infor cloud test environment.
What was the testing and evaluation process?
Within four hours, we installed and configured the OpCon web services connector on the client's system and kicked off the first Infor ION API job. We ran additional tests and within 24 hours we presented the PoC to the client.
What existing solution did SMA start with?
We used a standard OpCon implementation with the web services interface installed and configured. As we mentioned initially, we did not need to do any custom coding of our existing tools to achieve the client's goals. We only had to input the unique parameters for interacting with their Infor M3 instance.
How did we diagnose the problem and create a solution?
We encapsulated all the required steps into a single OpCon workflow using our web services connector.
- OpCon's Solution Manager interface provides the ability to put in as many steps as necessary to communicate back and forth with a cloud services endpoint/URL.
- Instead of writing all those steps manually or programmatically, our web services connector allows us to plug in variables into fields, significantly reducing the complexity for end-users and developers.
- Once we had the parameters and Infor M3 instance details from the client, we put them into our tool, and it executed, monitored, and alerted us when it finished running the job the client wanted it to run.
Why was this solution valuable to the client?
The value comes for service-oriented architecture developers and operators by reducing the amount of coding required to get things done. The encapsulation of multiple calls to cloud services within a single OpCon workflow makes the process faster while also greatly simplifying the management of Infor M3 jobs. If you're reading this, you probably have a keen awareness of how Infor is a potent ERP solution with notoriously difficult job management.
As stated initially, the client also wanted to increase their ROI on IT investments by moving more batch processing to the cloud. Now that they know they can reliably run those processes; they can move forward with their migration plans.