Best of Open Source Software Awards 2009
InfoWorld's 2009 Bossies spotlight today's Top 40 open source products for business and IT prosFollow @infoworld
The two projects leading the way in open source ERP are Compiere and Openbravo, and both earn a Bossie from us this year. Although forked from the same code base, both companies have moved in slightly different directions.
Along with these co-winners, OpenERP and OFBiz deserve mention. Tiny's OpenERP (formerly TinyERP) has significantly improved its strength and scope -- even wading into BI and workflow. The product could still use more enterprise features, such as an asset management system, but this Belgian company is on the move.
Apache OFBiz is also one to watch. Its rich e-commerce functionality, strong services layer, and handy MVC (model-view-controller) framework unfortunately remain overshadowed by usability issues and installation complexity. Themed interfaces are being introduced to improve the UI, and Derby -- OFBiz's embedded database for transaction processing -- is incorporating examples that should help draw interest. OFBiz will start to look much more attractive as these wrinkles get smoothed out.
Openbravo impresses with a well-developed POS (point-of-sale) solution, procurement and warehouse management tools, financial and accounting features, and production logistics for shop floor oversight. Further, Openbravo's plug-in architecture offers the same sort of extensive modularity found in SugarCRM and traditional commercial applications from the likes of SAP and Oracle. That means your developers can extend system functionality without worrying about stepping on core functionality. And the entire Openbravo system is supported by a healthy set of alerts, role-based user provisioning and access control, and a good Web-based UI.
Most of Openbravo's functionality is available in the free community edition, while more Compiere features -- including a Web UI, PDF reports, and warehouse and manufacturing management capabilities -- are locked away in paid editions. You will need Openbravo's enterprise edition to get OLAP functionality and clustering -- crucial for any large enterprise deployment.
Compiere's core features are also top-notch. The free community edition has the basics for materials and order management as well as purchasing, finance, and business performance management. As noted above, warehouse and manufacturing management are absent, but if those are not a requirement for your business, you'll find the HR/payroll features, reporting, and Java client in Compiere's community edition to be up to the task.
Although both Compiere and Openbravo offer some CRM-style features, you won't mistake them for full-blown solutions. Features such as forecasting, pipeline workflow, mobile access, and partner relationship management are light-years behind SugarCRM and commercial offerings such as NetSuite. But they cover the basics of sales management vis-à-vis master data overlap with ERP.
Business process management
When it comes to automating business tasks, the only open source solution capable of addressing the full matrix of enterprise requirements is Intalio BPM. It's simply the most comprehensive open source BPMS available.
The remaining choices are rather narrowly focused. Active Endpoints makes its ActiveBPEL Engine available free under the GPL, but requires you to pay up for the companion orchestration toolkit, the ActiveVOS Designer. (Intalio includes its modeler, BPEL server, and workflow in the free community edition.) Colosa ProcessMaker and uEngine have well-developed human workflow support, but they lack the heavy-duty, system-to-system integration capabilities of Intalio.