Recently, I’ve been asked “what is eOne doing with SmartConnect and what is the future of the on-premise version of SmartConnect?” This is a question to which we’ve given a huge amount of thought. We believe we’ve come up with a unique approach to providing the very best long-term integration solutions for our partners. The short answer is that SmartConnect, both on-premise and cloud, have a very aggressive development roadmap and will dominate the mid-market ERP integration space for the next 15 years.
SmartConnect has been in the market for 12 years, with the first ever public sale being on the 8th August 2007. I remember clearly the relief of making our first North American sale of SmartConnect – as when you develop a new product you just never know if the market will love it as much as you do. Shortly after that sale, we had 10 customers on SmartConnect which is when I truly realized we had created something special. Since then we have had an amazing team of people help us turn SmartConnect into a huge success.
Jump forward 12 years later: we have 6000+ companies who rely on SmartConnect every day. Indeed.com shows there are 18 career opportunities right now which specifically request experience in SmartConnect. We have sold SmartConnect in over 28 countries. We have grown from being a GP eConnect integration tool to supporting NAV, Dynamics 365 Business Central, Salesforce, NetSuite, Xero and just about every other cloud app you can name. We are not stopping and have big plans to ensure SmartConnect continues to amaze for years to come and dominate the mid-market ERP integration space.
Our development team have spent much of the past two years building our online, Azure-hosted integration platform. Our partners needed an online, no-install integration platform to support their cloud ERP businesses, so we invested heavily and delivered. We built this solution based upon the existing SmartConnect architecture and database, but as we accommodated the specific needs of a cloud offering (multi-tenant, lack of access to local resources, user management, security management, together with web protocols not supported in a Windows client) we made all the appropriate code changes required for us to offer SmartConnect as an online service.
This left us with two very similar, yet different integration products. I strongly believe that the on-premise integration market is as strong as ever. Our Microsoft Dynamics GP customer base is large. There are some 45,000 companies still investing in Dynamics GP and all of them need data integration. Microsoft Dynamics NAV customers (100,000 of them) are all running their ERP on-premise and it only makes sense to manage most of their integration needs locally on their own server environments. In fact, while many companies are pushing towards the cloud for all their software, very few are even close to achieving that 100%.
The short version of the above is that the future of integration involves both on-premise and cloud integration. I did not want to see eOne develop two separate integration products that slowly diverged and had different features, different connectors and twice as many bugs for our QA team to find. To maintain separate products, we would have to write all new functionality twice and while that is the easy answer in the short term, it is the wrong answer.
The path we decided to pursue was to merge our on-premise SmartConnect and our cloud SmartConnect into one master IPAAS (Integration Platform as a Service) that satisfies all of our customers. We are making all the changes necessary to our on-premise solution to ensure that we offer one single solution called SmartConnect. SmartConnect will be one single solution – deployed on premise or as a service on Azure.
The great thing about this project is that every new feature we build into SmartConnect will be available to our cloud customers and our on-premise customers. When we build a new connector, it will become available to both our cloud and on-premise customers. We will have one set of code for our QA team to test. The on-premise and cloud deployments of SmartConnect will still look a little different as developing the user interface for Windows is very different to developing it for a browser. Everything behind the scenes will be identical.
This project will bring changes and consolidation in areas like user management to handle both Windows and Azure. There are other smaller features that will differ between the two offerings, but these will primarily be around functionality that is not supported on either one of the platforms. Websites do not have access to C: drives and local resources which means the way you access local files for integration with the cloud offering will be different. Running .NET code for things like calculated fields and pre and post map tasks in a browser is not a good idea; instead we will be using Java Script.
By ensuring we have one single consolidated offering (albeit with two deployments methods) we are ensuring all the integrations that have been built in the past will work in either deployment. You will be able to migrate maps from on-premise to the cloud with a simple import and export process. The consolidation project is well under way and slated for completion around October this year.
To eliminate any confusion for our partners and customers we have made changes to our pricing model to ensure our customers can choose their deployment methods. When you purchase a subscription to SmartConnect you will have access to BOTH deployment options. This let you run all your integrations locally, all in the cloud, or a hybrid model where you run some on-premise and some in the cloud. The choice is yours.
The take away from this article is that eOne has a long-term plan for SmartConnect to dominate the mid-market ERP space. We are adding features and functionality at a rapid rate – based upon our partners’ feedback. Every new feature we add to SmartConnect will become available in both of our deployment methods. Whether you want to build integrations locally or Azure – SmartConnect is your answer.
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