Best of open source software awards: Enterprise applications

Bossie winners for content management, ERP, project management, application monitoring, BPM, reporting, portal, e-commerce, BI, and CRM

The InfoWorld Bossies are chosen annually by Test Center editors, analysts, and reviewers. The winners represent the best free and open source software we've used. In the enterprise software categories, our leading light was contributing editor James R. Borck, with help from contributing editors Victor R. Garza and Mike Heck.

Got an open source favorite we missed? Please send us a note.

Content Management


Virtually identical to Alfresco Enterprise, Alfresco Community is available under an open source license (only lacking formal support). In both cases you get a product that addresses the four major ECM activities: image management, document management, records management, and Web content management – all sitting on top of Alfresco’s JSR 170 content repository. Beyond often surpassing commercial offerings’ features, Alfresco is truly easy for end users, who access content in much the same way as a shared drive. Developers get a jump-start with pre-configured templates. And the system’s distributed architecture is tailor-made for building scalable, fault-tolerant applications. Enterprise Resource Planning


Compiere delivers a good, general-purpose ERP package along with basic CRM functionality. You get financials, HR/payroll services, procurement and inventory management, as well as general sales and good reporting. Compiere recently improved both security – now showing data-level granularity – and the user experience, with a browser-based UI and stronger search facilities. The features still fail to rise to the heights of, say, NetSuite, and some important new features are only available in the Professional Edition. But if you’re seeking an open source ERP alternative with broad functionality – look no further. Project Management


You’ll find several credible open source desktop replacements for Microsoft Project. We like the cross-platform GanttProject and OpenProj along with Windows-based Open Workbench. Yet for a completely open, collaborative project management solution, take a look at dotProject. The system emphasizes a clean and simple user interface that provides quick access to multiple projects, tasks, and associated files. A summary page gives users a snapshot status of all projects. You also get a Gantt timeline and various reports – plus calendar, discussion forums, and a contact database. Application Monitoring

Hyperic HQ

There are many server- and vendor-specific application performance monitoring tools, but if you want to see everything from one dashboard view, Hyperic HQ is the place to watch. It can monitor and manage numerous flavors of server hardware, operating systems, and application software, as well as networks and virtualization environments, providing granular control on thresholds and alerts, remote control, and management via the Web. Hyperic HQ can also monitor logs, help with security issues, and track inventory changes. We especially like the ability to track historical changes in our environment, whether network or otherwise. Business Process Management

Intalio BPMS

Intalio BPMS combines a J2EE/JBI-based BPEL 2.0 process engine with an Eclipse-based designer for modeling business activities, while the Intalio Tempo workflow runtime (based on the BPEL4People spec) rounds out the offering with Ajax-driven XForms on the Orbeon engine. The toolkit does a good job of introspecting back end resources and makes quick work of exposing Web services. End users gain good Web-based access to task management duties. Work remains to be done, but all told, it’s a respectable effort. Reporting


JasperReports represents one of the most sophisticated reporting engines on the market – commercial or open source. With features for conditional/burst printing, large job support, and the ability to combine multiple report types in a single job, JasperReports handles both visually rich printed reports and drill-down, online reporting. The feature set is further enhanced by the iReport tool, which works with other JasperSoft products and provides graphical SQL/MDX (OLAP) query building and live data previews across almost any enterprise data source. Enterprise Portal

Liferay Portal

There are a number of well-known open source portal solutions, including JBoss, Metadot, and MindTouch Deki. But when looking for enterprise strength, Liferay Portal stands apart. To start, it’s easy to customize and handles large organizational structures, such as giving each business unit a unique look and security permissions. For users, the GUI offers conveniences such as drag and drop portlet positioning. And Liferay ships with more than 60 JSR-168 compliant portlets covering everything from administration and content management to community features and personal tool. A Web services portlet lets you access information from other systems. E-Commerce

Magento eCommerce

Don’t be fooled by the version 1 label on Magento’s eCommerce platform. This PHP-based package brings power and flexibility to catalog and customer management, providing unified administration over multiple storefronts and support for multiple currencies and languages. Hierarchical navigation allows shoppers to sift goods, while rules-based promotion tools and proactive alerts rival the real-time order management capabilities of many commercial products. Magento lacks the performance and breadth of the Apache Open for Business project, which builds in Java-based ERP and CRM features, but is far easier to install and manage. Business Intelligence

Pentaho Open BI Suite

Open source BI options are pretty slim pickings, but the contenders are top notch. We lean to Pentaho over JasperSoft in recognition of its fleet of well-crafted modules for reporting and dashboards, data integration (via the Pentaho Kettle ETL integration engine), data analysis (thanks to the Mondrian 3.0 OLAP server), and advanced data mining (with the addition of the Weka project. End users like the browser-based, self-help wizards that simplify creating and generating reports, and there are good tools for automating delivery via e-mail and portal access and formatting to HTML, Excel, and PDF. Customer Relationship Management


We’re still sweet on Sugar, which is hands down the most complete and commercial-grade free and open source CRM solution. A flexible Ajax-driven browser interface is backed by an offline client and plug-ins for Microsoft Outlook. Version 5.1 (currently beta, due in July) supports smartphones and PDAs with a pared-down Web GUI and nice search options that get data into the hands of mobile users quickly. A wizard-driven interface takes much of the setup work out of generating complex reports, while Excel integration complements a nice set of dashboards. Sugar just gets more refined with each new release.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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