Behind the Jargon: Open Source Business Software Pt.2
The first part of this feature was a brief history of Open Source as a trend that quickly grew into an entire philosophy of software programming. Alongside that we provided some tips to keep in mind and things to look out for when considering adopting a piece of open source business software, be it ERP, CRM, business intelligence, or anything else, for your company or organization.
In this second part we’ll give you a list of a few open source solutions available in the ERP, CRM and business intelligence segments as well as possible upsides and downsides to adopting each one.
Business Intelligence (BI)
BI is quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing segments in the business software world, with, according to some sources, a predicted compound annual growth rate of 84 percent over the next two years.
It’s interesting to note, then, that one of the biggest names currently operating in Big Data processing, one of the major areas of BI work, is Hadoop, a thoroughly open source technology created and sponsored by the pro-open source Apache Software Foundation. Hadoop is an extension of the MapReduce technology developed at a research branch of Google.
JasperReports Business Intelligence
BI isn’t all about Big Data technology, however, and JasperSoft proves it by providing a standalone BI solution that delivers analysis, reports and dashboard displays with a high degree of on-the-fly modularity based entirely off a basic Java platform.
Despite being built upon open source technology, JasperReports is not free software, being developed and sold by the JasperSoft company. The cloud-hosted program was developed under a Lesser General Public License (LGPL), similar to the broader GPL described in the previous installment. The difference, however, is that an LGPL-licensed program is able to be linked with other software not included under a GPL or LGPL license. This flexibility allows JasperReports to be integrated with various different databases and content management systems.
Customer Relations Management (CRM)
If you’re running any sort of customer/sales-driven business it’s hard if not impossible to escape the need for a good CRM solution. An open source CRM solution can provide several key benefits, such as enhanced scalability–as your sales and existing contracts grow, naturally, so will your infrastructure needs–and free licensing with the ability to tweak your software to your heart’s content (provided you have the correct software/programming talent on your team).
SugarCRM puts scalability at the top of its feature lists, citing its open source roots as the key behind the solution’s ability to expand feature-wise to conform to the needs of the client. The solution comes in a variety of free (SugarCRM Community) and pay (Professional, Corporate, Enterprise, Ultimate) editions with broader feature lists as the customer travels up the cost scale.
Not everything has been rosy for this open source vendor, though. Despite being founded in 2004 with several successful rounds of venture funding, the company didn’t turn a positive cash flow until 2011. Also, SugarCRM has garnered some criticism for allegedly seeking to phase out its free Community Edition by gradually removing features and tools from it over time.
SugarCRM Community operates on the Affero General Public License (AGPL), which extends “copyleft” rights, which extend an original product’s copyright protections to any derivations spun off from it, to software that isn’t physically distributed to customers, ie cloud-based/remote-hosted solutions.
Accounting – Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
ERP is an amazingly broad area of business software, but we’ll focus on one of the most ubiquitous and high-demand of its specialties. If almost every sales-driven company needs a CRM solution then every company period needs a system for doing its accounting.
Accounting solutions designed specifically for enterprise-level organizations tend to command high prices, high system demands and high prices. This is in contrast to many of the prospective customers actually in the market for an accounting solution, who tend to be smaller businesses and ventures with markedly different needs from a diversified multi-national corporation. This is where many an open source solution attempts to step in.
Compiere treads a middle ground between light SaaS solutions and more feature-rich (but also resource/upgrade intensive) on-premise systems. As such it provides fully featured accounting tools even in its free Community Edition, but expands even further in more advanced paid editions, adding business intelligence and warehouse management modules among others.
The company’s reputation as fully embracing the open source model was in question for several years as earlier versions of Compiere were dependent solely on Oracle Database technology. A major 2005 release as well as subsequent releases have opened up some variety in the program’s database compatibility. Compiere is distributed under Version 2 of the General Public License.