Thursday, November 01, 2012

ERP rollups <> innovation

Brian Sommer has a really thought-provoking piece over at Enterprise Irregulars today.  You might not agree with all of his conclusions, but he goes into the technological and cultural changes sweeping through ERP and IT generally, and makes a number of really good points.  Here's one that I found particularly relevant to Graveyard readers:

Some ERP vendors are financially motivated firms that are designed to delight their shareholders. Some are innovative firms that are motivated to delight customers.The difference is telling. 

Right on.  We're doing some pretty darn interesting stuff over at xTuple, giving our customers a path to true mobile/web/cloud.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Um, Infor did not launch an "open source strategy"

So the headline over Chris Kanaracus' otherwise accurate piece in IDG proclaims "Infor launches open-source strategy."  Various other news services, linking to that and other articles, offer variations on the theme:  "Infor goes open source!"  "Infor open source plan!"

A moment, please, to catch our breath.  All they are doing is certifying another infrastructure platform.  As the Infor release notes, " Infor ION and Infor LN are now certified on Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating platform and JBoss Enterprise Middleware solutions."  OK, great - so presumably the former Baan application, and the Java-based middleware (presumably rewritten from the Microsoft-outsourced plan of two years ago) now run on something that's pretty darn similar to the Unix and other Java middleware they used before.  Knock me over with a feather.

Then there's this:  "Additionally, both Infor LN and ION can now leverage MySQL and MariaDB" (a fork of MySQL that took off after Oracle acquired Sun, which acquired MySQL).  Does that mean the whole application can run on MySQL instead of Oracle or DB2?  If so, that would be marginally more impressive.  Or are they just being cute - you can "leverage" it by building your own tools and middleware?  Can anyone comment authoritatively on this?

Still, though, let's keep our shirts on.  They're not making any of their own code open source, as far as I know.  They're not embracing anything at all open source on the application level, because of course, that's where they make their money - and exercise power over their hapless acquired sheep customers.  As analyst Frank Scavo pointed out in the IDG article, "enterprise vendors always want to commoditize the thing in the technology stack that they don't provide. If you're an Oracle you're never going to commoditize the database. But Infor doesn't provide those [infrastructure] pieces."

In a very real sense, this is perhaps the long-awaited declaration of hot war from Chuck Phillips against his former boss Larry Ellison.

Closing plug:  If you're looking for an ERP vendor with a true "open source strategy," you might try one that has award-winning functionality, comparable to any midmarket ERP system past or present, that is available free of charge, with source code, has been downloaded over 1,000,000 times, and has been translated and localized into dozens of languages and markets by a truly global open source community.  Visit the company site at, or the community site at

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Calendar reminder: It's been 6 years. Sell!

So today's Graveyard news concerns Solarsoft, a niche company formed in 2007 by the merger of XKO Software and CMS Software, and funded by private equity group Marlin Equity Partners.  Marlin originally bought XKO in 2006, so as the title suggests, it was probably about time to get out.

Marlin LPs, say it with me:  "THANK YOU, EPICOR!"

The combined company will serve one zillion customers, offer great cross-selling opportunities for nervous Solarsoft sales people, and add strength in blah blah and blah vertical markets.  "This is great," said Epicor CEO Pervez Qureshi, looking up from his lopsided balance sheet. "This is great," said Solarsoft CEO Shawn McMorran, zipping up his suitcase.

Interestingly, Marlin had previously purchased the old Intuitive MFG software in late 2005, and bankrolled Intuitive's acquisition of Relevant Business Systems in early 2006.  But by July of that year, they'd flipped it to Made2Manage, which later became Consona, which later became Aptean.

A tale of two ERP Graveyard tours:  Less than one year to buy and flip at a market high point, versus six years to finally unload to Epicor for ... ???  Stay tuned.

UPDATE:  451 Research estimates the deal value at $90MM, exactly one times revenue.  Woo-eeee!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Thoma Bravo dusts off shelf space for Deltek

Don't expect it to sit there very long, though.

The private equity group has bought and sold many other ERP systems in the past, which are in various stages of putrefaction in the Graveyard - among them Activant, Prophet 21, Consona, and JDA.  In this case, they're taking Deltek off the NASDAQ, and into their warm temporary embrace, before the company reaches its final destination at Epinforacle.

In the meantime, however, a number of law firms are suggesting that Deltek shareholders might prefer to get a little more than the $13/share Thoma Bravo is currently offering.  Hmmm......

Update:  Good piece by Chris Kanaracus at IDG, which has some tough-but-fair comments from Ray Wang, and some reminders of the company's poor financial performance lately.  It references a number of acquisitions that Deltek has made; I'm aware of Maconomy last year, but not much more.  Would like to add them to the Graveyard Scorecard, as they DEFINITELY qualify as Infor-bait now - if anyone has details on the acquisitions history, could you post to the comments below?

Some good history in two older writeups from PJ@ TEC here and here. And a brief review of the changing ownership picture from Wikipedia:

Founded in 1983, Costpoint product launched 1994, taken public 1997, taken private 2002, recap by New Mt. Capital 2005, taken public again 2007, now private again 2012.  Whew!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Parsing Sage, MAS 90 it's time...

Sorry, I worked really hard to find a better homonym for "Rosemary," but hey, give a blogger a break.

The news here, hardly a surprise, is that serial 90s-ware software acquirer Sage (formerly Best Software in the US) gave some hard news to its partners yesterday.  Those of us who follow the growing landfill at the ERP Graveyard have come to an uneasy peace with seeing formerly beloved products taken out behind the barn and dispatched, but today, in a candid keynote by Sage CTO Himanshu Palsule, the company read out the List of the Dead:
  • Sage Pro ERP (formerly ACCPAC Pro and SBT Pro)
  • Sage PFW (formerly Platinum for Windows)
  • Sage 500 (formerly MAS 500, former-formerly something else in the UK, unrelated to the old MAS 90 and 200 but renamed - can anybody help me here?)
  • Sage BusinessVision Accounting
  • Sage BusinessWorks Accounting
  • Sage BusinessBody Accounting (ok, I made that last one up)

No official word on the following:
  • Sage 50 (formerly Peachtree Accounting)
  • Sage 100 (formerly MAS 90)
  • Sage 300 (is that different from regular ACCPAC?)
  • Sage 104.5 "The Jam" - all of today's best dance hits

Tepid apologies for the extra snark. But see here for an earlier discussion of the Sage branding extravaganza, almost exactly one year ago.  Raise your hand if it's all clearer to you now.

Regardless, kudos to Palsule for his forthrightness - which was quickly undone by Sage North America CEO Pascal Houillon in this classic bit of Newspeak:  "Both core and noncore businesses will remain key parts of our overall portfolio."

Much as the Delta House in Animal House was said to have had a "long tradition of existence - both to its members and the community at large."  You tell 'em, Frère Houillon.

Perhaps some of these venerable products can find a home at Aptean, before they're finally put out to pasture.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Watch out, Epinforacle - here comes Aptean!

Exciting news for those of us pulling for a second tier of bloated, private-equity-funded rollups of failed ERP software companies.... Consona Corporation (acquirers of Made2Manage, Intuitive, Onyx, etc.) and CDC Software (formerly Chinadotcom, acquirers of Ross Systems, Pivotal, etc.) have combined forces to form.... Aptean!  Watch out Infor and Epicor!  Oracle probably still doesn't care.

Here's an exciting video from Aptean president Monte Ford.

According to the Aptean website, "Mr. Ford is widely regarded as a leader in the field of information technology" - although he doesn't appear to have worked at a software company before.  The interim CEO of Aptean, John Clough, held that same role at CDC for the past several years - and is a former Special Advisor to private equity giant General Atlantic.

So at first blush, the "merger" looks like a takeover of Consona by CDC and its backers.  Will update here as we learn more, but at the risk of stating the obvious, I think it's fair to say the Consona products now have another toe or two in the graveyard...

Update:  Atlanta Business Chronicle notes that CDC filed for Chapter 11 last fall, looks like some kind of internal legal wrangling.  Wotta mess!

Update 2:  Dow Jones reports, "Battery Ventures and Thoma Bravo exited their business-services software platform Consona Corp., selling it to Vista Equity Partners -backed CDC Software Corp. for between $240 million to $300 million, according to a person close to the process."

Update 3:  I've seen another private estimate of $250M, which is said to be roughly 2x TTM revenues.  And Consona was said to be way more profitable than CDC, which was doing revenues in the $220M range.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

New PE plucks Plex from Apax, no IPO

Interesting... after six years, Apax Partners - a private equity firm that continues to hold an investment in Epicor - has sold its position in Plex Systems to another PE firm, Francisco Partners.  No details on terms, and Plex has never disclosed financial results (although it's talked about year-over-year growth in recent years - no word on profitability).  A Crain's Detroit article reported sales of $26 million in 2009, and a Michigan Tech News blog post last year put 2010 revenues "in the low $30 million range" and that CEO Mark Symonds expected the company "to top $40 million in 2011."  They may have just made that, judging by reports they grew 30% in 2011.

That MITech article, btw, was mainly focused on the possibility of an IPO in 2012 - which was likely Apax's Plan A for an exit.  Not sure if that was ever in the cards for a company of that size.  But anyway, how did Apax do with Plan B - the PE pass-along?

The rather bland press release isn't much help, other than the Francisco boilerplate which describes its investment range as having a floor of $50 million.  The Apax position was said to have been a controlling one, so get out your calculators, and make your best guesses.

Analyst Brian Sommer, blogging at ZDnet, tries to get out in front of skeptics like your humble host here:  "Competitors will likely try to incite FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) about the deal. I can already anticipate some vendor will try to spin this in the most negative of fashion."  Well, yes.  He rightly notes that Apax was due for an exit, and Francisco Partners is no Infor, Epicor, or Consona, with Plex "smashed into a massively larger firm with its piece parts put on the shelf or neglected for years to come."

But it's still a flip, and Francisco has a bit of a reputation as a quick flipper itself.  After all, as no less an authority than the President of the United States has observed, private equity guys are just in it for the money - especially on the second time around.  So what will happen next?  Cost-cutting to get the financials in better shape for a (cough, cough) IPO?  Not unless they grow revenues 1000% for the next couple of years.  More likely, Francisco itself will look to dress it up for one of the aforementioned acquisition shops - or maybe even a Tier 1 player - to get its money out.  So yes, Plex customers and partners should still sleep with one eye open.

As a noted industry observer pointed out recently, cloud software vendors - particularly 100% pure plays like Plex - don't always make it easy for customers to walk away.  If Francisco Partners does turn out to be just a way station on the road to a glorious destiny at Epinforacle, it might be prudent to start exploring other options now.