IFS makes IFS Applications, a comprehensive enterprise resource planning and asset/service management software suite that is used by more than 2,100 companies around the world. IFS Applications uses Oracle database software and middleware and
has traditionally required an on-premises or hosted deployment. To give customers and partners more deployment flexibility, IFS made its software available from Microsoft Azure. With a cloud deployment option, IFS relieves customers of infrastructure worries
so they can focus more on their business. A cloud model also offers customers and partners the ability to set up temporary environments for workshops, training, or testing much more easily, and it speeds the time-to-value of using IFS Applications. By taking
advantage of global Microsoft datacenters, IFS can more easily support customers around the world and expand its business.
IFS is a global enterprise software vendor to industries where asset management, manufacturing, field service management, supply chain management, or project management are core disciplines. More than 2,100 companies in more than 60 countries rely on
IFS Applications, a modular product suite that can be configured for enterprise resource planning (ERP), enterprise asset management, project-based ERP, field service management, or a combination of all four. IFS is headquartered in Linköping, Sweden, and
employs 2,800 people worldwide.
IFS Applications uses the Oracle Database 12c database for its database tier, a Java-based middle tier that supports Oracle WebLogic, and a Windows-based client application. To deploy IFS Applications, customers traditionally either had to set up the hardware
and software on-premises or deploy the software at a hosting services provider. A typical deployment setup for IFS Applications consists of a main database server, a middle-tier server, several smaller front-end servers, and a duplicate of the whole production
environment for testing.
||By running our software in Microsoft Azure, it frees up our customers to focus on their core competencies. We can take IT infrastructure off the table as a barrier to sales.
| Dan Matthews
Chief Technology Officer, IFS
Although the infrastructure required to run IFS Applications was not an especially large one, IFS wanted to relieve customers of the need to worry about it at all. “Our customers are manufacturers, logistics companies, and supply chain management experts. They
want to focus their time and money on what they do best, not setting up and running storage arrays and server farms,” says Dan Matthews, Chief Technology Officer at IFS. “They don’t have the staff competence for that, nor do they want to invest in it.”
Further, many IFS customers wanted an easier way to deploy IFS Applications in short-lived environments—a training environment, a pilot project, or a special short-term project, after which the infrastructure would no longer be needed.
IFS partners, too, wanted such temporary environments, for training, development, testing, and other functions, in a variety of operating environments. To meet these needs, IFS had to put its product on file-sharing sites or even mail CDs to partners. This
was not only time-consuming but deprived IFS of control over its software. “If we changed our working relationship with a partner or wanted to provide limited-time access to our product, this was impossible to do with CDs,” Matthews says.
To meet all these needs, IFS had offered cloud deployment options in a couple of its markets but had not pushed cloud deployments broadly. “Even two years ago, there was not nearly the trust and confidence in public cloud computing as there is today,”
Matthews says. “But today, most of our customers are using some form of cloud computing, including Microsoft Office 365 and other Microsoft online services. That increased familiarity made it possible for us to move forward with public cloud deployment options.”
Customer-Favored Cloud Environment, Supported by Oracle
In fact, customer familiarity with Microsoft online services such as Office 365 contributed to the IFS decision to deliver its applications more broadly from Microsoft Azure, the Microsoft cloud platform that provides compute, storage, hosting, and management
services for hosting customer-developed applications and services in Microsoft datacenters.
“We selected Microsoft Azure as our preferred public cloud platform for a couple of reasons,” Matthews says. “We wanted a platform that could support the full software stack involved in IFS Applications, which includes Java, Oracle, and Microsoft technologies.
The fact that Microsoft Azure can support all these technologies was very attractive.” Also, most IFS customers had significant investments in Microsoft infrastructure, so it would be an easier transition to Microsoft Azure than to other cloud platforms. “Experience
with, trust in, and comfort with Microsoft Azure among our customer base is growing,” Matthews says. “The time was right for us to offer our products from Microsoft Azure.”
The decision for Microsoft Azure became even more compelling when, in June 2013, Microsoft and Oracle announced a partnership to help customers and software service providers develop and run Oracle software in Microsoft Azure. The partnership gave IFS and
its customers the flexibility to deploy Oracle software—including Java, Oracle Database, and Oracle WebLogic Server—on Windows Server Hyper-V or in Microsoft Azure and receive full support from Oracle. IFS customers can also use their existing Oracle licenses
to run both their IFS application server and the Oracle database server in Microsoft Azure.
Multiple Environments in the Cloud
To date, IFS has two types of active Microsoft Azure environments:
Production IFS Applications environments. IFS currently gives customers the option to run their IFS Applications production environments in Microsoft Azure, using their existing Microsoft licensing agreements to pay for their Microsoft Azure
Virtual Machines. Many customers run a “split” environment, with the production environment running on-premises and the test environment in the cloud.
Temporary environments. Microsoft Azure makes it easy for IFS customers to set up temporary IFS Applications environments for special short-term projects, training needs, testing the latest version of IFS Applications, and other use cases.
Environments that IFS will soon move to Microsoft Azure include:
Partner training environments. IFS plans to set up temporary IFS Applications environments for partners to use for internal training. “We have partners around the world who are development partners, hosting service providers, and other ISVs
[independent software providers],” Matthews says. “We’ve struggled with how to provide reference environments for these partners. They need IFS Applications in every version and configuration for training, development, test, and support. By putting these configurations
of our software on Microsoft Azure, we can quickly give our partners access to the version of our product that they need while maintaining tight control over it.”
Currently, IFS is using a number of Microsoft Azure services: Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines, Microsoft Azure SQL Database, Microsoft Azure Cloud Services, and Microsoft Azure Active Directory. Migrating IFS Applications to Microsoft Azure was straightforward
and took just a couple of months. “Most of this time was testing; we had good help from Microsoft,” Matthews says. “For our customers, there is very little work involved in running IFS Applications in Microsoft Azure and basically no difference from deploying
our software on-premises—other than the fact that they don’t need to procure any hardware or install any software. And every single Microsoft Azure Virtual Machine looks exactly the same, which is usually not the case with an on-premises deployment, so that
makes their job even easier.”
||For our customers, there is very little work involved in running IFS Applications in Microsoft Azure and basically no difference from deploying our software on-premises.
| Dan Matthews
Chief Technology Officer, IFS
As a bonus, IFS Applications performs quite well running in Microsoft Azure. “We thought that we would see slower I/O performance, and performance is critical for database-intensive applications, but we were positively surprised that an eight-core virtual machine
in Microsoft Azure performed on par with a physical server,” Matthews says.
By offering IFS Applications from Microsoft Azure, IFS helps customers get to market with its software quickly and cost effectively without the need for an on-premises infrastructure. IFS customers and partners also use Microsoft Azure to set up temporary
environments that they can decommission when no longer needed. The Microsoft Azure deployment option helps IFS be more competitive by removing deployment barriers and helping customers move to the cloud.
Relieve Customers of Infrastructure Worries
Many IFS customers are large enterprises with established IT staffs, but others are midsize firms with limited IT staffs and budgets. Offering these customers a cloud deployment option makes it possible for them to run a highly available, redundant,
and secure IFS Applications environment without large infrastructures or investments in specialized staff members such as database administrators.
“Even customers who can afford to set up the necessary infrastructure and hire the necessary people don’t want to, because it’s not their core competency,” Matthews says. “By running our software in Microsoft Azure, it frees up our customers to focus on
their core competencies. We can take IT infrastructure off the table as a barrier to sales.”
Not only do customers eliminate the need to purchase, deploy, and maintain hardware, but they reduce the cost and complexity of procuring multiple third-party licenses to run Oracle Database 12c, Oracle WebLogic, middleware, and other Microsoft Azure services.
All these programs can be licensed through Microsoft.
Give Customers Faster Time-to-Value
With IFS Applications running in Microsoft Azure rather than on-premises, customers enjoy faster time-to-value because they no longer have to procure hardware and wait for it to be delivered before the deployment or upgrade can begin. IFS customers also
reduce the cost of deploying IFS Applications and upgrading to the latest version by eliminating the need to spend money on hardware and storage.
Help Customers and Partners Set Up Temporary Environments
With Microsoft Azure, IFS also has an easy way for customers and partners to set up temporary environments for IFS Applications. For example, a customer can set up a Microsoft Azure infrastructure running IFS Applications for a three-month to six-month
period to test a new business process. When the test is complete, the customer can “unplug” that environment and its associated costs. “Microsoft Azure is very cost-effective for temporary scenarios and gives our customers and partners far more flexibility
in using our product,” Matthews says.
IFS can also get specially configured versions of its product to partners much faster using Microsoft Azure and have more control over its product once it is in partner hands. “We no longer have copies of our software floating around on CDs,” Matthews says.
“It’s running in Microsoft datacenters where we have complete control over it.”
Expand Business Around the World
With Microsoft Azure as a deployment option, IFS is more attractive to more kinds of organizations. “By offering our product on Microsoft Azure, we avoid the negative impact of not having this deployment option,” Matthews says. “If we hadn’t offered
a flexible cloud deployment option, customers might go elsewhere. We want to remove all the reasons we can for a company to not buy from us.”
Additionally, because Microsoft has Microsoft Azure datacenters all over the world, with more on the way, IFS can better support customers in more geographic regions. “There are laws in most countries that require that certain industries using cloud services
must physically store their data inside that country,” Matthews says. “Microsoft is rapidly expanding its number of global datacenters, and this could ultimately become a huge competitive advantage for us.”
In closing, Matthews says that the rising popularity of cloud computing is creating a beneficial circle for IFS, its customers, and partners. “The more our customers become acquainted with Microsoft Azure and use it, the more we will be able to deliver more
applications on this platform,” he says. “It’s a win-win for all of us. Our volume of business in Microsoft Azure will increase as our customers’ trust in Microsoft Azure increases, and that’s happening rapidly.”
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