One year after the Red Prairie buyout of Ecometry's owner Escalate, the e-commerce suite is getting a more secure open systems future. Ecometry once represented the largest and most vital part of 3000 growth, especially during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s. A list of 3000 customers circa 2003 showed that one customer in five was using the e-commerce software.
When satisfied users of 3000 apps are sparked to make a migration away from the server, they often rely on the considerations of their longtime app vendor. At e-commerce and catalog firm Musical Fulfillment, manager Chris McCartney is still searching for a solution that will improve on the 3000-based Ecometry software she's managing. Her company serves several e-commerce sites such as electricguitar.com.
Even though the Ecometry app's supplier Red Prairie sells a commodity version of the software, that migration target is not registering a higher note at McCartney's company.
"Unfortunately there is very little ROI in an upgrade to the Open Systems Ecometry," McCartney said, "so that is a hard sell."
The application and its creators have moved from part of the Escalate software group to an even less prominent part of Red Prairie, which now has 43 software solutions in its stable after a series of acquisitions during the last three years. But recent signs point to protection for this application suite -- at least its versions built for non-3000 environments.
"They're either really, really small, or really, really large," Foster said. A tough economy stalled smaller customers, while the larger ones might be hemmed in by corporate IT procedures. An app that's doing its job won't always be put in flight by a vendor's support changes. Costs are always a factor, whether the customer is large or small.
"You pay Red Prairie to migrate your application," Foster said, "then pay someone else to migrate your surround code." Migrating off Red Prairie products might cost $5 million, while shifting to an open Ecometry version could be $2 million, he estimated.
McCartney has been researching alternatives to the MPE-based Ecometry software called Direct Commerce. The alternatives don't improve the application capabilities at the company which fulfills orders from American Musical Supply, zZounds.com, ElectricGuitar.com, and SameDayMusic.com. A competitor, Musician's Friend, made a migration off Ecometry to Junction Solutions several years ago.
"We have been looking at other solutions like Junction Solutions," McCartney said, "but I have yet to find a good reason or some fantastic functionality that the others provide that we don't already do with Ecometry/Direct Commerce. Maybe I am missing something."
If there's a silver lining in the situation for the Ecometry sites still running a 3000, it's the renewal of vows on the part of Red Prairie. There's a version that runs under Windows, and another that runs under Unix. But Red Prairie is no longer in danger of running off Ecometry sites to one of the other software packages in its sea of ships, Foster said.
"There was a question of whether they would keep Ecometry in the boat," he said. "That was a year ago, though. The management shuffles are done."
Just as MB Foster has hundreds and hundreds of customers who continue to rely on its products for MPE/iX, McCartney would prefer to remain on the HP 3000 with an app which works well.
The company has used the application for more than 10 years and moved up to the N-Class HP 3000s a few years ago. "We were hoping to get a few more years out of it before we had to make a decision to upgrade or move to a different ERP system," McCartney said. "Personally I love HP 3000s – they are sturdy, they run forever, and they are just one box with none of this load balancing on multiple servers."