Acumatica (a circa 2007 application software firm founded by a number of ex-Solomon executives) recently announced version 4.1 of its cloud ERP solution. One of the pleasant surprises I and others learned about it was that the product was now multi-tenant.
Most cloud software falls into a couple of familiar camps:
In the last category, a multi-tenant solution would usually have these characteristics:
Over time, new options have emerged that address emerging needs of some cloud software customers. Unit4 Agresso and NorthGateArinso allow customers to select the timing of when they upgrade including the ability to delay a major release/upgrade. This elasticity is very important to businesses that may have very real business conflicts with the vendor’s upgrade or release schedule. Larger, multiple business unit firms find this flexibility quite valuable.
Recently, I spoke with Stijn Hendrikse, CMO of Acumatica, about their different cloud offerings. I wanted to get more detail on these since their recent channel partner conference in Washington. I have attempted to relay this understanding in the following paragraphs.
Acumatica appears to have a number of deployment options it gives its customers (and channel partners). Interestingly, they see different kinds of businesses choosing different deployment options. My (not Acumatica’s) descriptions of these options follow.
So far, Acumatica has had some interesting uptake of these different deployment models. For example, one of their partners is a CPA firm that offers a cloud accounting service to its clients. In their deployments, all of their customers are in one full multi-tenant instance. The accountancy needs only to go to a single drop-down list to pull up a specific client’s books. In another case, a restaurant chain has all of its units in a single multi-tenant instance where the accountants can access the books of all locations. The books are all independent from one another yet the accountants can easily move between them.
What’s actually happening here is a layering of single and multi-tenancy in one technology environment. In these examples, an entity (e.g., the CPA firm) is essentially creating one single-tenant version of Acumatica with hundreds of multi-tenant, similar, books beneath this. This would be great for multi-division conglomerates, too.
Acumatica has two major partners that have taken the multi-tenancy further. One of these, Visma, has apparently taken apart the product and made it more multi-tenant by increasing the scale and number of companies running on one instance of the software. They are targeting small businesses who want a very efficient and low maintenance solution. Visma’s version of multi-tenant Acumatica runs on Visma’s own data center. All customers use a single version of the software. Upgrades are automatic and pricing is on a subscription basis.
I believe choice is a good thing for consumers. The newer cloud solutions are showing software buyers a growing range of deployment options that open up different ways to control upgrade cycles, data location, service levels and more. Also, some customer groups (e.g., large, complex conglomerates) will likely find some solutions just too limiting or will find the controls these solutions impose on their firm unworkable. Choice is needed.
What we’re seeing are the beginnings of customer segmentation in the cloud ERP space. Some buyers will want trouble-free solutions where the vendor does it all for them. Others want and need a lot of control. Different buyers therefore need different solutions or options.
The evolution of software, thankfully, never stops. And the options Acumatica now offers probably won’t be the last we’ve heard of new cloud deployment options for a software buying market that is continuing to refine its wants and needs.
Software vendors that are still trying to get out one version of their products in a multi-tenant cloud world are falling further behind. These are the vendors that have to re-discover how to put speed and innovation into the same sentence.
Disclosure: Acumatica provided travel and lodging for me at their partner event.