By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
SM: Can you talk to me about the supply chain operations reference (SCOR) models?
SS: The SCOR people have a relationship with the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), and we are close to AMR, which is now part of Gartner. The AMR people think we can help to create that SCOR model for the supply chain.
SM: For the benefit of our readers, could you send me information about what SCOR is? How has the supply chain industry adopted this model of standardizing taxonomies?
SS: Well, I would say SCOR has just come to the automotive after market in the past 18 months or so. Therefore, that process of getting people to adopt and use the SCOR model is new in this market. I know that in the Consumer Products Group (CPG) and other markets, the supply chain councils have done a much better job of adopting the SCOR model. I am aware of that model from a distance, having worked only with the Supply Chain Council. I am actually presenting at a Supply Chain Council meeting in Houston later in October. In fact, Jason, I think you people are going to be talking about the SCOR model next week when you are at the industry conference, right?
SM: So, what industry does SCOR handle?
SS: Well, this is from what I know by just talking to the Supply Chain Council. I always see them at the EMR, CPG, and hardware conferences. If you look at industries with mass merchants and CPG, for example, the Home Depots, the Wal-Marts, the Targets, the Lowes, the CPG hardware, mass merchant and retail folks, those are the ones adopting SCOR.
SM: Are you saying that Wal-Mart adapted the SCOR model?
SS: No, I do not think Wal-Mart has this. Wal-Mart does not need to. They would rather do their own thing, but I believe that a lot of the manufacturers, suppliers, hardware industry players, they work with the SCOR model. I can refer you to the senior vice president of the Supply Chain Industry Association, and he could probably articulate a more exact definition of what we are doing with SCOR and this industry.
SM: We will follow up with you to get referrals to some of the people who are doing adjacent things in the supply chain. Let’s move in a different direction. What is the Microsoft architecture that you have adopted in deploying your solution? Why has Microsoft recommended you as one of their cloud computing leaders?
JP: Well, we have adopted SQL Azure, the database, for the back end in the cloud and Windows Azure on the front end for Web services and data processing. The other part of data processing is AppFabric, which Microsoft has built on the Azure cloud. AppFabric handles threading, queuing, and localized storage, that type of stuff. It gives the ability to do computing with lot of power under your own design, development, and code sets. There are other pieces that we have in the cloud portion of our system, and there are the pieces used in interactions or design architectures around how we use the cloud or the endpoints into the cloud. Web services is one of our other endpoints that goes to the cloud. As I said earlier, we have two endpoints: the portal application, which is a Microsoft Silverlight application, and a Web services endpoint in which customers from their business systems send us a secured Web service call to the cloud to request inventory, see inventory availability, and get a response. We will also be creating another endpoint, which we call big voice. This will be a unified communications model that will allow us to connect directly to the cloud via a phone call. Imagine a supplier is visiting a store and a customer walks and says to him, I am looking for this part but I am not sure what part number it is. The supplier can call it in on his phone and be able to place the order immediately before the buyer leaves. We are creating these three endpoint models.
SS: Jason, one of the things I think Sramana was looking for is why do you think Microsoft positioned us as a thought leader in this space?
JP: Sure, I will address that shortly. The fourth aspect we use is Microsoft BizTalk. BizTalk is not available in the cloud, but what we have done with it is unique. We are one of the industry leaders in using BizTalk. We are the largest BizTalk implementation in terms of the number of artifacts and code pieces that we run on BizTalk, and that is how we got Microsoft’s attention. We offered, as a cloud model, the virtual inventory cloud (VIC). This would be instrumental. We are one of the thought leaders in this because we bring a combination of ingenuity in how to use the cloud, especially between disparate systems. The example is in our on-premise, off-premise model that is a combination of our using BizTalk on the premises and in the cloud to do some transformations. In addition, we have extracted, with Microsoft’s help, some base functionality that remodels what BizTalk currently uses from its core, and we are using some of those features in the cloud. Therefore, it is not fully BizTalk in the cloud but some of its core capacities that we have designed and engineered with Microsoft methodologies to do processing in the cloud. No one else is doing that; we are the only organization doing a transformation process of any type in the cloud.
SM: Okay, got it.