Deals Will Add Hosted Apps to i2 Lineup

Company teams up with Sun-iPlanet and Vizional; Some IT managers look to their ERP providers.

As companies like i2 Technologies Inc. step up partnering efforts to bolster their supply chain software, some IT managers are looking, instead, to their ERP providers for similar capabilities.

Thats because, according to IT managers, buying supply chain applications as a module for their enterprise resource planning suite is proving to reduce integration costs.

Nevertheless, i2 last week announced three major partnerships in conjunction with its eDay event here, all designed to generate products that will enable companies to pull more information from all members of its supply chain.

At the event, i2 announced an alliance with Sun Microsystems Inc. and America Online Inc.s iPlanet unit. The companies later this year will unveil a combined offering of i2s business-to-business CRM (customer relationship management) software fortified with iPlanets electronic bill payment and presentment applications running on Sun servers. The software will let users plan and execute customer-facing business functions and manage orders.

i2 also introduced an upgrade to its CRM suite that incorporates Vizional Technologies Inc.s VizionalNet inventory synchronization technology. Vizional, of Santa Monica, Calif., provides the capability to manage inventories and orders across a supply chain.

These efforts, welcomed by i2 users, are not without drawbacks. One problem with the Sun-iPlanet alliance is integration, observers said, and the iPlanet application server lacks easy integration points, meaning that customers will have to figure out how to integrate the alliance product with their ERP systems or purchase additional integration services, said Simon Yates, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc., of Cambridge, Mass.

In addition, ERP vendors themselves are promising to reduce integration costs by introducing their own supply chain software. ERP giant SAP AG, of Walldorf, Germany, last month introduced Version 2.0 of MarketSet, a product it developed with Commerce One Inc. that provides visibility into a supply chain.

ERP vendor QAD Inc., of Carpinteria, Calif., this week will begin shipping its Supplier Visualization, or SV, application, which feeds information from a manufacturers QAD enterprise system directly into a QAD database, where it is routed to the supplier.

"Were using SV as a tool to give our suppliers the ability to see all of our inventory information for the parts that they supply," said Bob Matz, director of materials for GHSP, an auto parts manufacturer and a QAD beta tester.

GHSP looked at i2, but Matz said the product was too expensive. He and IS Manager Jeffrey McCauley were looking for a simpler product that wouldnt take a lot of consultants to implement and ultimately chose the one developed by GHSPs ERP vendor.