ERROS - The Open Universal Business Model and The
In previous issues of 400times we have looked at the
concept behind ERROS - the Neural Database for AS/400. We have previously
identified that ERROS offers a new way of working and designing applications
on the AS/400. The next step is to look at how the concept could be applied
to build fully functional ERP systems using a fraction of the time and
resources of traditional system.
This discussion document looks at how ERROS is the
catalyst behind a new way of working. The document is authored by Rob
Dixon of Erros PLC and paves the
few for a new and exciting challenge.
The ERROS Open Universal Business Model
The Open Source initiative for program code has been
very successful, but even unrestricted access to other people’s source
code still leaves a great deal of work to be done before the source can
be understood, modified as necessary, compiled, tested and put into production.
It may not be easy to integrate with existing data or applications.
Changes to the open source may be necessary because
some of the basic functionality may need changing. It may be that the
source needs changing simply to accomodate larger or smaller quantity,
price and value fields, etc.. Changes of this sort may seem simple at
an intellectual level, but they still require considerable effort to ensure
that all the necessary changes have been made and that they have been
Underlying all computer applications is a business
model, even if the files and programs have been created without a business
model being formally defined. The ERROS Open Business Model will make
a Universal Business Model rather than program source code publicly available.
Public access to this business model over the Internet will allow much
more rapid deployment of applications, using patented multi-dimensional
Neural Database techniques, mostly without any programming.
The people, companies, products, services, and processes,
etc. of business, and the relationships between them, are defined in the
Universal Business Model in the ERROS Neural Database, using the terminology
and language of the business. The business model is dramatically more
compact than program source code, and can be understood without programming
Applications, with menus and procedures, defined in
the ERROS Neural Database rather than in programs, control access to those
parts of the business model and user data appropriate for the required
function or process (e.g. sales order entry) and also control the actions
(e.g. read, add, delete, etc.) that can be performed by each operator
on each part of the user data. These application filters are also stored
in the Neural Database.
No programs are generated (this is not a "Case"
tool), and many complex applications can be created without the creation
of any new programs. Only when an entirely new function is required, for
example a mathematical routine, will new program code be needed. Application
creation does not usually require physical file design and no new files
are usually created during the application creation process.
The business model, through the application filters,
drives a small kernel of existing programs in the ERROS runtime system.
This will be obtainable for a relatively low license fee, based on the
number of concurrent users. As it can generate HTML dynamically, all applications
work immediately over the Internet, without any file conversion or program
change. ERROS can be used to create major Internet sites. All links within
the Neural Database are automatically bi-directional and are recorded
without the use of URL’s.
Default values for quantity, price, etc., field lengths
for each user company are stored in the Neural Database and the ERROS
runtime kernel expands/contracts column sizes dynamically, whether these
are displayed, using traditional green screens or 5250 emulators or an
Internet browser, or printed.
The applications are robust and scaleable, suitable
for companies large or small, are able to handle large data and transaction
volumes with large numbers of concurrent users, and are much easier to
control. They are automatically Object-Oriented, and have a consistent
structure with only a tiny fraction of the complexity of existing packages.
Since they use so few computer resources, they generally perform much
more quickly than those created with other means. Maintenance can often
be done without shutting systems down. Costs for initial development and
for maintenance are much reduced, as are the running costs of the systems.
An audit trail records all business model and application definition changes
and user data database changes and who made each change, and when. Transaction
boundaries for commitment control are defined in the database rather than
There is no need to understand user requirements in
full detail before starting to build the new application and there is
no need for detailed design of the application. Rather, the approach is
to build the application in an incremental manner. At any point, additional
entity types can be defined or additional attributes defined for existing
entity types. Changes to the database structure can be made as required,
even if the application is in use for testing purposes or has gone live.
Work on defining the Universal Business Model started
some time ago. The ERROS Neural Database, which runs on the IBM iSeries
(AS/400) family of servers, probably the most robust and most powerful
Internet servers available today, allows incremental development. A consortium
of developers will expand the model in a co-operative venture to cover
an increasingly wide range of areas and types of business. A continually
updated Universal Business Model will allow developers to respond much
more quickly to user requirements and to ensure that systems evolve in
line with the ever changing world of users.
The Universal Business Model will be owned by a corporation.
This will ensure that the business model is properly maintained, further
developed and promoted. This corporation will be obliged to give public
access to the business model over the Internet. It will be possible to
view it but not to download it. This will allow potential users to determine
without cost or obligation to what extent the business model might be
used as the basis for applications that suited their needs.
The Universal Business Model will be licensed to software
companies who wish to develop applications based on the business model,
using a development tool defined in the Neural Database. Applications
created by different developers on the central server are automatically
integrated with each other, without redundant data. This allows developers
to create applications in business areas in which they have special skills
that will share common data with other applications created by other developers.
Thus, for instance, different developers could build separate applications
that together make an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. Where
more than one developer creates an application in a particular business
area, users would be able to choose without being concerned about integration
with existing systems built on the Universal Business Model.
Since systems based on the Universal Business Model
will have a similar structure and will have similar file layouts and data
structures, data exchange between users of the same or different packages
will be simpler.
A second development tool defined in the Neural Database
allows user companies to make local changes and additions to the central
business model, totally integrated yet stored on their own server, and
build applications based on a combination of Universal Business Model
and their own definitions.
The Developer Consortium
The initial ideas for the developer consortium are
given below, but, depending on the reaction that these receive, they may
well be changed (this is not a fund raising proposal).
The consortium of developers - individuals and/or
user or software companies - might wish to develop packages in their specialist
areas, or they might wish to co-operate in the development of a suite
of business applications to create, for instance, a complete replacement
ERP package, totally scaleable and suitable for the smallest or largest
companies. Development would be done on a central machine. Such a package
would have only a tiny fraction of the complexity of existing ERP packages.
The basis for a first module for such a package already
exists and might be made available as part of the overall package.
Developers from the consortium would not get paid
but they and/or their companies would get -
- A suite of robust, controllable, scaleable, integrated,
Internet ready applications for use in their company without charge.
- The use of the ERROS runtime software without charge
for up to 10 users, with a low rate for additional users.
- The use of the development system without charge
for up to 5 users on one AS/400
- A result that more closely fits their company's
requirements than with existing packages.
- A package that would run on a rather smaller AS/400
than their existing package if they have one, reducing operational costs.
- A higher profile in the market place from being
involved in new leading edge technology.
- A reputation for being able to deliver more robust
solutions that better fit user requirements, more quickly and more cheaply.
There would be a limit to the number of developers
involved in the consortium to ensure that there are not of 5,000 developers
bursting with competing ideas, and to make everyone keener to join! The
consortium members would be the first users and form the basis for a user
group for the package.
The developers from the consortium would be responsible
for proposing the required functionality, for part of the development
work and for testing work in progress on a day-to-day basis and for ensuring
that the results really meet the needs of the market place. They would
have responsibility for testing the functionality, usability and robustness
of the package and its fitness for purpose.
If funding can be found, a company would be set up
to manage the development with full time staff. This would be a self-contained
entity with its own management and staff and would own the rights to the
Universal Business Model. The developers in the consortium and/or their
companies might be offered shares in this company as an additional incentive
for their work. They might also wish to be investors in the company. The
main shareholders would be the investors, the developers, Erros plc, owners
of the Neural Database, people associated with Erros. The new company
would own the rights to the package developed by the consortium. The company
would be responsible for doing the day-to-day development and for ensuring
that a robust, scaleable, maintainable and marketable package results,
suitable for companies of all sizes. They would provide the central AS/400
and Internet connections, etc.. They would also be responsible for marketing
the products outside the consortium and for maintenance and future development
of the products. They would also look at the problems of file conversion
from other packages and endeavour to produce solutions.
The developer consortium might believe that there
is no need for a company as they could do it all, but if the job is to
be done properly, and if the idea is to succeed long term, there must
be a properly funded commercial setup to ensure successful completion
of the product and its survival after the individuals in the consortium
have moved on to other things.
The hope is that the price of the resulting package
would be based on the number of concurrent users with the price per user
similar to prices for PC software - say $250 to $450 per module per user
but with reductions to a purchaser of all the modules and reductions for
large numbers of users. Maintenance would be 12 1/2% in the second and
subsequent years. Absolutely no costings have been done at this stage
to see whether these ideas are viable, but a solution based on the Universal
Business Model would be dramatically simpler to develop and maintain than
26th October 2000
The product ERROS is created and owned by Erros
PLC. More details on the history and concept of ERROS can be found on
their website at www.erros.co.uk
ERROS A New Era?
ERROS A Closer Look