At a time when most major vendors of enterprise-resource-planning (ERP) systems are scrambling to enhance their software to enable Internet-based transactions, a small West Coast firm appears to have leapfrogged to the front by introducing what it describes as "the first completely Internet/intranet-enabled ERP system." In late October, BHR Software announced the availability of BHR Info.Net, an open client/server system that makes a full range of enterprise-wide functions -- from sales-order entry to production management to accounts receivable -- accessible over the Internet or corporate intranets. One significant result is that it gives smaller companies a way to implement ERP -- or to upgrade outdated systems -- without incurring heavy up-front investment costs. "Small to medium-size companies need ERP capability, but can't afford it. And they don't want to spend two years implementing a system. They can't wait that long to get a payback," says John Byrnes, BHR president. "We wanted to introduce a complete, integrated ERP system that works -- and that doesn't entail huge implementation and training costs, or huge communications costs -- to small and medium-size manufacturers." BHR rewrote the screen handler -- or interface layer -- of its software using the Java language developed by Sun Microsystems Inc. for Internet applications. The effect was to enable users to access all 350-plus programs in the Info.Net system simply by running a Java-enabled browser on a desktop PC or on an inexpensive "thin client" network computer (NC). "What everyone else is doing," Byrnes contends, "is creating gateways that allow you to access limited functionality, like sales order entry or order-status inquiries, over the Internet. They are modifying a few of their programs to enable them to run with Java. But all of our programs -- or objects -- are Java-enabled. And the computing power is all back on the server." That gives customers several options: (1.) purchase the Info.Net software and install it on an in-house server; (2.) deploy the software internally, perhaps over a corporate intranet, but pay for it on a "transaction pricing" basis keyed to the level of usage; (3.) run the software on BHR's computer platform -- thus avoiding the need to invest in a server -- and access the system over the Internet, again paying on a transaction-pricing basis. The last option exploits the low-cost communications potential of the Internet. "Internet technology is bringing back the potential of time-sharing," notes Doug Jones, BHR's director of marketing, "because you can use a thin client -- and all the user needs is a Java-supported browser." Downloading a Java communications "applet" to the desktop or NC establishes communication with the server. One customer, Ungo Security Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., has installed Info.Net on its own server, but plans to take advantage of the Java-enabled communications capability to give key suppliers and subcontractors direct access to production-scheduling information via the Internet. To facilitate implementation, BHR is offering users a free multimedia training system on a compact disk. Typically, it claims, users can be up and running in 90 days or less.