IDGNS: Private-equity firms often look to extract cash from their portfolios. Given this, how can customers be assured that you can deliver a long-term road map without making compromises?
Qureshi: I think history is the best assurance. When I ran Activant, it was owned by two private-equity firms. Neither of them extracted cash during the period they held us.
IDGNS: Can you talk about your longer-term SaaS strategy?
Qureshi: The area where we push SaaS explicitly is on the low end [with Epicor Express]. We've just done that in the Americas, and we're launching it in EMEA and APAC in the next few months. We have just under 200 customers on that today.
The plan is always to go upmarket. It's always been our plan to offer the Epicor platform, whether standard or enterprise edition, in a SaaS format. Epicor Express is a way of testing our readiness from a hosting center perspective, being able to support the product, pricing and packaging. It's all about seeing how it works.
If today, a customer wants [other Epicor editions] today in a SaaS deployment, we'll make that available for them. But we're not pushing it today.
IDGNS: Epicor has embraced Microsoft's development technology stack and is also planning to extensively use its Azure cloud service, yet you also compete with the company's Dynamics ERP products.
Qureshi: Recognize that when you're talking to large companies, don't think of them as monolithic. With Microsoft, there's the infrastructure side of the house, and there's the application side of the house. Our relationship is very close and based on mutual credibility. They value our input because we do use their stack in a deep way. That's true as far as road maps and specific features.
IDGNS: Some Epicor products are based on infrastructure software from Progress. Is the goal for Epicor over time to get to one technology stack?
Qureshi: We have a very good relationship with Progress. Literally thousands of customers across the company use either the Progress database or the tools, and I expect that's going to continue for a long time. While we're going to continue to be a good partner and developer with Progress I think it's fair to say we're going to be strengthening the stack [relationship] with Microsoft as well.
IDGNS: What are your plans for enabling customers to run Epicor software on other public cloud services besides Azure?
Qureshi: Over time, I think people will be able to pick which infrastructure they want to go with in terms of the cloud. We want to make sure we get it right. We'll start with Express, make it available more broadly, and make [a SaaS] option available more broadly for other editions. Then we'll look to Azure for solving a lot of sort of high-volume deployments. Then after that, if we need to go to other infrastructure platforms, we'll go there. Right now the focus is, let's get it right on Azure.
IDGNS: Let's talk about a perennial topic that remains relevant for most ERP customers: annual software maintenance payments. What's your view of third-party maintenance for ERP, which some companies provide at lower cost?
Qureshi: There are people that do that. Sometimes they can be at a disadvantage, because they don't have access to source code. They tend to be more cottage. They may have specific expertise, and if they do so, that's fine too.