In penning entries for Supply Chain Matters, I do not generally comment on product announcements from supply chain technology providers unless I feel there is some significance for my readers.  In 2001, I was one of the first industry analysts to introduce the term of a hosted supply chain software delivery model because of what I felt was its long-term significance. 

Today, Amitive, Inc., is announcing its Unity 5.0 release of what this vendor terms as Community Supply Chain Management (C-SCM). While the press release is a bit lengthy,  readers should take note of the fact that nest generation cloud computing technology is beginning to appear in applications related to supporting extended collaboration among global supply chain processes.

The analogy that I believe best describes the potential of this technology relates to that of outsourcing of certain supply chain or production processes.  True cloud computing can provide the capability of flexibly outsourcing your supply chain collaboration software and infrastructure needs in a much more efficient manner.  Rather than paying and maintaining for peak use, this technology offers the flexibility to add on the fly, based on overall business process and supply chain network model. Supply chain collaboration and visibility vendors such as Kinaxis were some of the original pioneers for on-demand hosted software.

For those readers not familiar with Amitive, this technology vendor was first conceived in 2003 under the name of Mitrix. As sometimes happens with technology start-ups, the original technology spawned by Mitrix encountered some market challenges and its senior management and investors wisely decided to return to the R&D lab in order to re-engineer a product that could be made available to mid-market manufacturers and service providers that would truly leverage recent breakthroughs in cloud computing technology.

Amitive Unity 5.0 is designed and delivered on a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Of more significance, this new platform offers more flexible deployment options in terms of hosting models, IT infrastructure configuration on the fly, multi-tenant as well as upgrades release options. A prospective customer also has more options as to deployment, either hosting within the customer’s firewall, with a multi-tenant ASP such as Amazon or Google, or with Amitive itself. Vice President of Technology, Sean Rollings, whom I spoke with last week, has had previous experience in SaaS application marketing, and smartly leverages the term Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) to describe Unity 5.0.  Pricing is flexible with a pricing model that supports functionality modules and an unlimited amount of network users for a monthly price that can supported by an overall monthly operating budget vs. a large capitalized expense.

I trust that buyers will positively respond to these new iterations of cloud computing tailored to supply-chain wide collaboration and visibility. Beyond the usual technology hype, the significance of cloud computing I believe is that it can be an appropriate technology for managing and supporting a dynamic and constantly changing network, which is exactly what supply chain collaboration and visibility needs have become.  While traditional ERP systems tend to be monolithic in operation and scale, cloud-based models have the opportunity to be much more flexible in terms of implementation and network scaling, which impact overall total cost of ownership. Armitive’s current 10 customers had their implementations up and running in an average eight weeks, which is fairly typical of this technology.

The timing of this technology is good, since many supply chain planning systems adopted during the B2B dot com era are running close to eight years of service and maintenance support, and their may be economic benefits toward shifting to a cheaper IT service and platform.  There were also many mid-market companies that chose to stay with home-grown, customized applications, or just Excel spreadsheets. With the global-based recession now bottoming, companies may well want to leapfrog their industry in more innovative business models.  One customer, Ortherea, is providing consumers the ability to order custom sized orthotics, with the Amitive platform utilized to send custom configurations to a global network of contract manufacturers who ship the product direct to the consumer or retailer. I found  this particular deployment  to be a cool application of leveraging both product and supply chain innovation.

You can anticipate more announcements of next generation cloud computing over the coming months, with a particular emphasis on supporting global supply chain network processes with a more thought compelling cost-of ownership model.

Bob Ferrari

Full Disclosure Statement; The current CEO of Amitive, Amar Singh, was a former boss of mine at SAP. Amar however has not spoken or briefed me on this new product release.