Macola cloud strategy still being assessed, with an offering likely in calendar 2018

ECi has instructed Macola to make development of a cloud strategy a major priority. Macola’s execs discuss the specifics of what they are doing, when customers are likely to see the fruits of this labour, and what they are likely to be.

Alison Forsythe, Macola’s Managing Director

CHICAGO –  In the opening keynote here on the first day of the Macola EVOLVE 2018 event, Trevor Gruenewald, President and Chief Operating Officer of ECi Software Solutions, which now runs Macola since Apax Partners acquired it from Exact last year, signalled a new priority for the cloud.

“We are also a cloud company,” Grunewald told the audience of Macola customers and partners. “Four years ago, we were just on-prem, and we have provided options to migrate them to the cloud. We have been successful on taking all of our products in that direction and we will do that with Macola, to make sure you have the options that you need.”

Gruenewald did not provide further details however. However, Alison Forsythe, Macola’s Managing Director, and Derek Ochs, their Director of Software Development, subsequently fleshed out Macola’s cloud plans for ChannelBuzz.

“Macola has had a hosted cloud solution, which many of our partners today use, and we will continue to support that,” Forsythe said. “What we don’t have in the market is a true single tenant cloud solution. Developing that is a major part of ECis go-to-market strategy, so they want that to be a major focus. When the deal closed last summer, we were asked to look at how they deployed it. We are doing that evaluation – and looking at other options.”

“We are looking at a couple different flavors of cloud offers,” Ochs said. “One is the single tenant hosted solution. Pretty much all our legacy apps can be hosted in that environment. The multi-tenanted one is more complex. We have to do more research to see if Macola Progression and Macola ES can run there. Macola 10 will also require some security hardening for multi-tenanted. All told though, it is not as much work as I originally thought it would be.”

Ochs said that while Macola is planning the development of both single-tenanted and multi-tenanted options, a single-tenant version will finish its development first.

“From the technical side, we are setting systems up so they can run either way,” he said. “We will give the teams a choice of how they sell it. We will make sure that we are able to support a single tenant hosted cloud, and have this available for use in the short term. The development of the multi-tenanted option is longer term.”

From the sales side, the idea is to finalize a decision on the roll-out strategy in time to get product to market this year.

“Within the next six months or so, we will make a final decision of what a Macola-branded cloud offering will look like,” Forsythe said. “We want to have a product for the short-term available within this year, within six to nine months.”

Forsythe also noted that while the legacy ESi ERP manufacturing solutions are ahead of Macola on their road to the cloud, they are themselves at different stages of development, and Macola isn’t miles behind in the dust.

“MAX has a cloud solution today, while I believe M1 just completed their move to the cloud and JobBOSS has a hosted solution,” she said.

“The architecture we are building out now is a browser-based native cloud application, which I consider to be ahead of where these products are today – but it does require a lot of engineering work,” Ochs said.

At last year’s Macola EVOLVE, Ochs laid out a long-term road map that extends well beyond the 10.7 release announced at this year’s event. He stressed that adding the cloud imperative won’t upset those plans.

“We don’t expect the cloud efforts to take a big toll on our engineering resources,” he said. “We will need more operational resources though, like people to patch those machines. We think that ECi’s shared resources structure is something that we would be able to leverage here.”

Ochs explained why he expects the pooled resources between all the ECi manufacturing companies to help with R&D efforts around cloud.

“It’s things around the knowledge of how to take a specific type of application and get it to run in the cloud,” he said. “They have already takes apps similar to ours to the cloud. They also have the operational knowledge of how to support it.”

As an example of how the sharing of ideas between the different business units worked, Ochs cited an example that had come up in their assessment of the architecture around cloud printing.

“With cloud, printing isn’t as easy to do because the print drivers can get messed up,” he said. “We asked questions of how another business unit had solved that, and we worked with user groups on it. ECI encourages taking advantage of a very deep knowledge base. It’s just a matter of finding out where the right people are.”

Tod Replogle, owner and President at long-time Macola partner Exceptional Software Solutions, which is based in Bonita Springs, FL, thinks Macola is striking the right balance in their cloud strategy. He noted that while most customers are not clamouring for cloud options today, developing the ability to present an option will still give his company a significant arrow in the sales quiver.

“Is cloud the most important thing for me and our customer base,” he asked. “No. On-prem is still very important to our customers. The features and functionality of the on-prem is what they like, and what they care about the most. Still, even though it’s not the most important thing for customers today, it is important to me that Macola and ECi are looking at it.”