Manugistics unleashes supply-chain Swarm

Software preps companies for item level-tracking

Manugistics group aims to bolster supply-chain processes with new planning software that can crunch massive amounts of data.

Unveiled at the company’s enVISION conference in Washington last week, Swarm technology will allow companies to track products down to the item level and location without overwhelming current hardware systems — despite the enormous amount of data that will be generated.

Previously, item-level tracking stopped at the distribution center because the combination of item plus location produced so much data (about 500,000 numbers) it was difficult to process, said Julie Stern, vice president of technology strategy at Manugistics.

“If you want to do store-level item, location-tracking that number goes up to 20 million — or even 40 million — numbers, and it still needs to be processed on a daily basis,” Stern said.

Stern said that Swarm can crunch an unlimited amount of numbers.

Swarm breaks the problem into as many finite threads as it can and then deploys each thread on an available node, which can be either a single CPU or a cluster of CPUs, a single server, or many servers.

The technology uses a grid-based hardware architecture and can run on HP Unix, Windows, and IBM 6000s.

“It is a masterless process,” Stern said. “Every node knows what every node is doing, so it is fault-tolerant. If one fails, the other picks up the scheduling.”

One analyst said Swarm is a fundamental change in planning algorithms.

“This technology allows [companies] to do store-level forecasting without spending a ton of money on IT hardware,” said Mike Dominy, a senior analyst at The Yankee Group.