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opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM Quarterly Update

In the last three months we have taken important steps to finishing opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM Version 1.4. Key new developments include:

Upgraded to New Release of Apache OFBiz, Tomcat, and Funambol

We have upgraded opentaps to the new releases of Apache Tomcat (6.0.16), Apache OFBiz (09.04), and Funambol (8.01) The new version of Apache OFBiz brings us the following additional features:

  • support for LDAP
  • support for deployment on Geronimo, IBM Websphere Community Edition, Glassfish, JBoss, and Tomcat
  • support for OWASP security framework
  • a project management application
  • a human resources application
  • integration with eBay
  • integration with Google base
  • support for Google check out

Along with the new version of Apache OFBiz, we have also updated opentaps to support the new OWASP security features.

The new version of Funambol brings us the ability to sync and share contacts, calendars, email, and pictures with both popular desktop apps, such as Outlook, and web-based email, including Gmail, AOL Mail, Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail.

License Change to Affero GPL v3

Related to the Funambol upgrade, opentaps has changed its license from the Honest Public License (HPL) to the GNU Affero General Public License v3.

opentaps 1.4 is Coming Soon

With these upgrades, opentaps 1.4 is almost done. We will be enhancing some of the user interface with Google Web Toolkit and implementing keyword search for the opentaps applications, and then opentaps 1.4 will be officially released. In the meantime, another preview release of opentaps 1.4 will be available within the next week or so.

New Case Study about opentaps

In this new case study about opentaps, a manufacturing company with 200 employees switched from its legacy mainframe ERP system to opentaps, and in the process consolidated its IT infrastructure, reduce costs, and connected to its partners globally.

Wishlist for opentaps

We recently had a community discussion of a wish list for opentaps. What’s really interesting is that people are asking for a smaller and a bigger opentaps at the same time — “smaller” as in easier to use and easier to customize, “bigger” as in more features and functionality.

This may look like a contradiction, but it’s really not: If we could make opentaps easier for new users and developers to work with, we would have more third-party add-ons and modules for opentaps, which would in turn give us many additional features.  The key to doing all this is a strong underlying architecture which is modular, intuitive for developers to work with and extend, and maintainable.

From opentaps version 1.0 to 1.4, we  taken some important steps in this direction.  At the framework level, we have added support for spring, hibernate, and Google Web Toolkit among others, and started building an object-oriented domain driven architecture.  After the release of opentaps 1.4, we will be exploring some new technologies  to make opentaps more modular and easier to customize and extend.

steps

Finally, special thanks to Claude Feistel of Integrasphere for his help with the opentaps Users Manual.

Could Your Open Source Project Support a Business?

At the beginning of every road, the possibilities always stretch infinitely to the horizon. So it always seems when one is starting a business as well. But could your open-source project actually support a business as well?

roof_timber_support

The answer is not always “yes.”

On the surface, even the concept of an “open source software business” seems to be an oxymoron. “Open source” means software that is freely available for users to download, use, and distribute. A “software business” means charging for that software, be it from licensing, support, or documentation. So how could an open source project be used to build a software business?

To answer this question, we need first to understand why both commercial and open source software models work in the first place.  Commercial software offers features. In return for my money, this shiny package will (hopefully) offer me out-of-the-box features that meet my needs. Open source software, on the other hand, offers code. I can go somewhere, get the source code for free, then customize and extend it as I need. The software freedom that Stallman originally talked about is really a freedom through code: I am “free” with open source software not because I got the software free of charge, but because I have its source code, so I can change it to suit my needs. Therefore, commercial software will appeal to people who are looking for stable, easy to use, and supported features, whereas open source software will appeal to people who are looking for well written source code to modify or customize.

Not all software have both groups of people. For example, there are certain types of software which practically nobody wants or needs to modify or extend, so open source has a limited value proposition (other than being free of charge.) In this case, you might be better off releasing your software as shareware: give it away for free, but keep the source code, and then ask people to pay for an enhanced version.  (A modern alternative to this model would be to offer it free online and sell ads.) Conversely, there are some types of software, especially in the open source world, which are really not intended to be used out of the box and therefore are only valuable to programmers willing to work with the code. These might work adequately as open source projects, but you will probably have a very difficult time making a business out of them.

Therefore, to have an open source software business, you need to find a type of software where there are people who need the source code and where there are people who would pay for out of the box features, stability, ease of use, and support. We think we’ve found it with business applications software, such as ERP and CRM software. Virtually all ERP software, even multi-million dollar commercial packages, must be customized, so our users will appreciate having access to the code. Ease of use, stability, out-of-the-box features, and support are things that business users are used to paying for as well. It was this thinking which led us to create the opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM business applicaitons suite.

If you think you have found such an open source project, I will write more about how to build software for both open source and commercial users in the next installment of our series on “An Open Source Business.”