Proving An Open Future for ERP
Pros build a life beyond the 3000

Open source community grows opportunity

Open source software is taking a fresh step into territory more comfortable to commercial users. The HP 3000 world is closer than most to embracing open source as a validated solution, in part because your world has employed user-created software for 3000 sites since the 1970s.

Of late, that kind of help has emerged from stewards around the world updating Samba, Apache, or the latest extension to the power of Linux. But another category is emerging with fresh opportunity: the commercial open source software organization. Openbravo, an ERP app being introduced to 3000 migration candidates by Entsgo, is among the best-organized of these solutions. Its community gathers and creates the Community Edition using a Wiki for free, but Openbravo also offers an Openbravo Network implementation including an annual professional support subscription service.

Openbravo is so complete that the software includes tools available for non-developers to modify the app suite. While this might sound like a risky move, many 3000 owners have little in the way of traditional development staff. The 3000 was offered to the non-DP kind of customer. That's Data Processing, for anyone searching for IT or MIS as a label for the technologists in the community.

Even though Openbravo is offered with source code included, these tools give customization to users who know business processes better than COBOL or C.

If you look at the Openbravo community, says Entsgo's Engagement Manager Sue Kiezel, "it isn't just developers. It's users, too, because they have tools for people like me, who really aren't technology people, so we can modify the code."

Kiezel said she wrote add-on modules to Openbravo during Entsgo's training for the app. "We also modified existing forms and lookup tables, and added content. It's very easy to do." These tools operate through a Web-based interface.

In addition to making changes to handling processes like this, the application's published source can be modified. Under the terms of the Openbravo Public License Version 1.1, any modifications a user makes to the published source code must be made available, just like many other open source solutions.

Any Modification which you create or to which you contribute must be made available in Source Code form under the terms of this License, either on the same media as an Executable version or via an accepted Electronic Distribution Mechanism to anyone to whom you made an Executable version available.

The software is available as a free download, also in keeping with the open source model. But since it's an ERP-class solution, using a partner such as Entsgo is Openbravo's preferred path into a company. Chief Operating Officer Josep Mitja says

Openbravo is relatively easy to implement compared with many established proprietary solutions, but an ERP implementation typically requires support of qualified IT consultants. For this purpose Openbravo is distributed to end users through its global network of partners. Openbravo partners manage customer relations and provide support to users.

That said, a company that's dedicated to using state-of-the-art tools can do its own development. This is territory where a non-3000 platform will be replacing something like a MANMAN, so the Openbravo app suite is built for industry-standard systems. Openbravo is developed in Java, SQL and PL/SQL. Most developers work on a Linux machine with a PostgreSQL or Oracle database, the Java Development Kit, Apache Ant and Tomcat installed. Java coding and debugging is done in Eclipse.

There is a great deal of headroom for the growth of functionality in Openbravo, plus the means to accomlish it through the commercial open source community.

"It doesn't have the depth and breadth of a MANMAN yet," Kiezel said. "But MANMAN didn't either in its first seven years. It took 20 years. The open source idea is wonderful. But I think the idea that really excites me is the community. The fact is that Openbravo's business model is not based on how much money they can make off of you. It's, 'How we can not only share the burden, but share the rewards.' "