Photo courtesy: Flickr/a loves dc

Photo courtesy: Flickr/a loves dc

Gartner recently released its report dubbed, “Cool Vendors in Supply Chain Services,” which gives kudos to providers that use cloud computing as an enabler or delivery mechanism for capabilities that help enterprises to better manage their supply chains.

On that list of vendors building cloud solutions and leveraging big data and analytics to optimize the supply chain is startup Elementum, which The Semantic Web Blog initially covered here and which envisions the supply chain as a complex graph of connections. As we reported previously, Elementum’s back-end is based on a real-time Java, MongoDB NoSQL document database and flexible schema graph database to store and map the nodes and edges of a supply chain graph. A URI is used for identifying data resources and metadata, and a federated platform query language makes it possible to access multiple types of data using that URI, regardless of what type of database it is stored in. Mobile apps provide end users access to managing transportation networks, respond to supply chain risks, and monitor the health of the supply chain.

Gartner analyst Michael Dominy writes in the report that Elementum earns its cool designation in part for its exploitation of Gartner’s Nexus of Forces, which the research firm describes as the convergence and mutual reinforcement of social, mobility, cloud and information patterns that drive new business scenarios.

“In addition to cloud services, Elementum exploits big data analytics and has built applications specifically for mobile devices,” Dominy writes.”Two other unique aspects about Elementum involve integration with value chain players in the high-tech industry and simplified pricing terms for their solutions. Orchestrating a networked supply chain — a capability that high-tech OEMs must master — requires integrating with logistics providers, contract manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and customers. Elementum, because it was incubated with Flextronics — the second largest electronics contract manufacturer in the world — is preintegrated with many of the supply chain partners in several industry value chains.”

Among the report’s key findings, says Rob Cheng, head of marketing and people success at Elementum, is that “’an integrated cloud-based platform and services that support front-office and back-office processes across the extended value chain are important for delivering the right service to the right customer at the right time.’ Elementum offers one such platform, leveraging cloud computing, Big Data and analytics to extend supply chain collaboration beyond the four walls of the enterprise.”

The Gartner report focused on Elementum’s value as a cloud SCM platform leveraging open-source cloud technologies, coupled with innovative mapping, integration and big data capabilities. It didn’t delve specifically into Elementum’s differentiating itself from other enterprise supply chain software applications that run atop relational database management systems. That, Cheng says, work well until you reach a certain scale. “To support more concurrent users, a traditional RDBMS requires bigger servers with bigger CPUs, bigger memory and bigger disk storage. But individual servers can only get so big until they are prohibitively expensive and complex,” he says. “Once you pass that point, you have to distribute the database across multiple servers, exponentially increasing cost and complexity. Since the global supply chain fundamentally involves many trillions of records, we believe that modern, horizontally scalable NoSQL database technologies like MongoDB and Cassandra are critical to implementing global scale supply chain solutions.

In addition, NoSQL databases support more flexible database schemas, making it easier to collect and make sense of data from other supply chain systems, as well as easier to update both application logic and data without disrupting existing customers or integrations,” Cheng notes.

Also singled out for praise in the report are B2X, Metnext, Nulogy, and Omneo, a division of Camstar Systems, whose applications aim to help the high-tech and electronics industries go deeper into supply chain visibility and better drive product quality upstream and downstream in their supply chains. Omneo’s applications, which include Data Quality and Fast Contextual Search, are built with Hadoop and Cloudera. Camstar, analyst Simon F. Jacobson writes, “is focusing on applying context-driven search and analytics to different data information elements (structured and unstructured), which are typically isolated in various systems of record. More specifically, Omneo accesses data scattered around the entire value chain — spanning test logs, part numbers, dimensional part data, customer complaints and production histories — which is often locked up in SQL databases, MES databases, multiple QMSs, data warehouses or even spreadsheets.” Gartner, he writes, believes that companies will find value in the visibility and ability to assimilate and associate multiple variables and data elements that originally could not be analyzed together, including accelerating problem solving and root cause analysis.”

In a Cloudera case study on its site, Omneo discusses the deployment of the multi-tenant Cloudera enterprise data hub behind the Omneo solution for the manufacturing and supply chain industries. Omneo, it notes, ingests machine-generated and existing system data from the manufacturing process, including clients’ own factory data in addition to data from their suppliers, field services, and after-market repair and re-manufacturing data. Once the data is loaded into Cloudera  MapReduce is used to transform and manipulate the data into any structure needed; HBase provides an easy way to access specific records in real time; and Cloudera Search, enables Omneo to rapidly index all of its raw data in a way that makes sense for customers.