Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Nikita Ivanov, Jerry Melnick, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Esmeralda Swartz

Related Topics: Open Source, Java, SOA & WOA, Cloud Expo, Apache, Security

Open Source: Article

Five Pitfalls to Avoid with Open Source ERP

Do you want your ERP system to be a hobby and passion

Don't you just love spending millions of dollars to license a commercial ERP package? And then I bet you feel warm and fuzzy about hiring a bus-load of expensive consultants to come and tell you how to run your own business, following so-called ‘best practices' built into an inflexible ERP package. And just when you thought you were going to realize all the benefits of ‘off-the-shelf' software, you find you have thousands of lines of custom code lashing together old systems you didn't dare remove, third-party bolt-on solutions to plug gaps in the ERP software vendor's package, and customized reports, forms and enhancements no-one ever thought someone in your industry could ever need.

Open Source - an Escape from the Commercial ERP software Nightmare?
Then along comes open-source ERP. Kudos to OpenBravo, Compiere/Consona, OpenERP, xTuple, opentaps etc.

Open source (for those who don't already know) means that you get free software, you can extend and modify the source code, you pay no license or maintenance, and you don't need an army of external consultants. Amazing! Too good to be true!

Er, actually, it is too good to be true. Open source ERP is great for some people, but not for everyone. Here's why.

Five Pitfalls to avoid with Open Source ERP

  1. Open source ERP systems were often built on a shoe-string budget and, despite their commercial advantage, sometimes the number of active customers (not downloads) is in double digits. That means 25-100 other companies before you who have tried and tested the software. Not the tens of thousands of companies who have experienced the joys and pains of a top-tier commercial ERP system like SAP, Oracle or Microsoft Dynamics.
  2. Support is not included in the free software option. So if you encounter a bug (and based on the limited number of active users, you are quite likely to) then you are on your own. Of course all open source ERP vendors offer a support option, at a cost. At a minimum you need this and it should be the basis of any budget comparison.
  3. Most ERP open source software vendors now offer a basic version which is open source, and a version with "bells and whistles" on a paid basis. Compiere started this trend by updating their user interface to web-technology and then charging money for it. Hang on a minute - if the bell or whistle is so important, then how can you do without it? Is the open source version really useful without these bells and whistles? Is the difference in the free vs. paid version going to get bigger or smaller over time? Sorry to burst your bubble, but I have not yet found an open source ERP vendor that is a registered not-for-profit charity. They are in business to make money, and one sure-fire way to make money is to charge for things like features that you probably, honestly speaking, need.
  4. Open source by definition allows customers, partners and ex-employees to take the source code and turn it into a new offering. Sometimes the new open source package addresses a number of gaps in the earlier package; sometimes the author of the new package is greedy and wants to make a fast-buck without writing their own system, or sometimes the new system results from a personality conflict. Either way, it means that your ERP vendor might not have actually written the open source ERP package they claim to be expert in, or perhaps not all of it.
  5. Open source ERP vendors are not making much money. No profits must mean lower prices, so a great deal for the customer, right? Wrong. The one thing you need out of your ERP vendor is for them to stick around. You are literally betting your business on their software application and you are going to need to rely on them for years, maybe even decades to come. The last thing you want is your ERP vendor to go out of business, be acquired by another ERP vendor (who you can bet will slash future development on their step-child) or decide to invest their time and energy pursuing something else.

Open Source ERP Is Not for Everyone
To be fair, open source ERP is great for some people. There are many happy customers using open source ERP. Most of them have bright and tech-savvy staff on hand who are not just willing, but even relish the idea of rolling up their sleeves and fixing bugs or designing enhancements. That's why open source users are so vocal on forums as compared to commercial software users. They are the pioneers on the front-line of new technologies, blazing the trail of open source ERP adoption and adaptation. And they're proud of it.

Are you that kind of company? Or are you in business to do something else, like, er, what you set up your business for in the first place?

The Community to Complexity Conundrum
Some open source software is spectacularly successful, Java itself being the poster-child. Go to sourceforge.net and you will find tens of thousands of cool open source applications, downloaded millions of times every day. Here is an important factor to consider: community to complexity. It works as follows: The most successful open source software has a huge community in proportion to its complexity.

For example, open source software like Java, which started out life as a simple language became huge purely because of the community. On the other end of the spectrum, ERP is arguably one of the most complicated enterprise software applications imaginable ....but because it is so specialized it simply does not have the community large enough to match its complexity.

Some technology leaders bend this rule by investing millions of dollars into their own open source offerings to gain traction, such as what Sun did with Java or Google with Android. Open source ERP vendors don't have the funds to do this so they must rely on their small community battling with a hugely complex open-source set of applications.

Is Your ERP a Hobby or a Tool?
So the take-away is this: Do you want your ERP system to be a hobby and passion, or something that just works in the background? Do you want to get into the nuts and bolts of the package or get something that is easy for non-tech savvy subject matter experts to deploy and use?

More Stories By Richard Minney

Richard Minney is co-founder of iBE.net,, a developer of business management software for SMEs. He has nearly 20 years of ERP experience as a developer, consultant and project manager. Previously he was executive VP for Product Innovation at HCL-Axon, responsible for the company's successful ERP add-on solutions business. Before that, he was co-founder of Feanix, a $20m SAP systems integrator with clients like Sikorsky Aircraft and Pratt & Whitney. He spent nine years at U.K.-based Druid Group plc, building SAP’s first industry add-on solution for aerospace and defense. He began his career at Ford and Rolls-Royce. He has a Masters in computer integrated manufacturing from Cranfield University, and a MA in engineering from University of Cambridge, Oxford. You can reach him at richard.minney@ibe-erp.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Cloud Expo Breaking News
MapDB is an Apache-licensed open source database specifically designed for Java developers. The library uses the standard Java Collections API, making it totally natural for Java developers to use and adopt, while scaling database size from GBs to TBs. MapDB is very fast and supports an agile approach to data, allowing developers to construct flexible schemas to exactly match application needs and tune performance, durability and caching for specific requirements.
Web conferencing in a public cloud has the same risks as any other cloud service. If you have ever had concerns over the types of data being shared in your employees’ web conferences, such as IP, financials or customer data, then it’s time to look at web conferencing in a private cloud. In her session at 14th Cloud Expo, Courtney Behrens, Senior Marketing Manager at Brother International, will discuss how issues that had previously been out of your control, like performance, advanced administration and compliance, can now be put back behind your firewall.
More and more enterprises today are doing business by opening up their data and applications through APIs. Though forward-thinking and strategic, exposing APIs also increases the surface area for potential attack by hackers. To benefit from APIs while staying secure, enterprises and security architects need to continue to develop a deep understanding about API security and how it differs from traditional web application security or mobile application security. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Sachin Agarwal, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy at SOA Software, will walk you through the various aspects of how an API could be potentially exploited. He will discuss the necessary best practices to secure your data and enterprise applications while continue continuing to support your business’s digital initiatives.
Next-Gen Cloud. Whatever you call it, there’s a higher calling for cloud computing that requires providers to change their spots and move from a commodity mindset to a premium one. Businesses can no longer maintain the status quo that today’s service providers offer. Yes, the continuity, speed, mobility, data access and connectivity are staples of the cloud and always will be. But cloud providers that plan to not only exist tomorrow – but to lead – know that security must be the top priority for the cloud and are delivering it now. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Kurt Hagerman, Chief Information Security Officer at FireHost, will detail why and how you can have both infrastructure performance and enterprise-grade security – and what tomorrow's cloud provider will look like.
The social media expansion has shown just how people are eager to share their experiences with the rest of the world. Cloud technology is the perfect platform to satisfy this need given its great flexibility and readiness. At Cynny, we aim to revolutionize how people share and organize their digital life through a brand new cloud service, starting from infrastructure to the users’ interface. A revolution that began from inventing and designing our very own infrastructure: we have created the first server network powered solely by ARM CPU. The microservers have “organism-like” features, differentiating them from any of the current technologies. Benefits include low consumption of energy, making Cynny the ecologically friendly alternative for storage as well as cheaper infrastructure, lower running costs, etc.
The revolution that happened in the server universe over the past 15 years has resulted in an eco-system that is more open, more democratically innovative and produced better results in technically challenging dimensions like scale. The underpinnings of the revolution were common hardware, standards based APIs (ex. POSIX) and a strict adherence to layering and isolation between applications, daemons and kernel drivers/modules which allowed multiple types of development happen in parallel without hindering others. Put simply, today's server model is built on a consistent x86 platform with few surprises in its core components. A kernel abstracts away the platform, so that applications and daemons are decoupled from the hardware. In contrast, networking equipment is still stuck in the mainframe era. Today, networking equipment is a single appliance, including hardware, OS, applications and user interface come as a monolithic entity from a single vendor. Switching between different vendor'...
Cloud backup and recovery services are critical to safeguarding an organization’s data and ensuring business continuity when technical failures and outages occur. With so many choices, how do you find the right provider for your specific needs? In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Daniel Jacobson, Technology Manager at BUMI, will outline the key factors including backup configurations, proactive monitoring, data restoration, disaster recovery drills, security, compliance and data center resources. Aside from the technical considerations, the secret sauce in identifying the best vendor is the level of focus, expertise and specialization of their engineering team and support group, and how they monitor your day-to-day backups, provide recommendations, and guide you through restores when necessary.
Cloud scalability and performance should be at the heart of every successful Internet venture. The infrastructure needs to be resilient, flexible, and fast – it’s best not to get caught thinking about architecture until the middle of an emergency, when it's too late. In his interactive, no-holds-barred session at 14th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Development Community Advocate for SoftLayer, will dive into how to design and build-out the right cloud infrastructure.
You use an agile process; your goal is to make your organization more agile. What about your data infrastructure? The truth is, today’s databases are anything but agile – they are effectively static repositories that are cumbersome to work with, difficult to change, and cannot keep pace with application demands. Performance suffers as a result, and it takes far longer than it should to deliver on new features and capabilities needed to make your organization competitive. As your application and business needs change, data repositories and structures get outmoded rapidly, resulting in increased work for application developers and slow performance for end users. Further, as data sizes grow into the Big Data realm, this problem is exacerbated and becomes even more difficult to address. A seemingly simple schema change can take hours (or more) to perform, and as requirements evolve the disconnect between existing data structures and actual needs diverge.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SherWeb, a long-time leading provider of cloud services and Microsoft's 2013 World Hosting Partner of the Year, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 14th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. A worldwide hosted services leader ranking in the prestigious North American Deloitte Technology Fast 500TM, and Microsoft's 2013 World Hosting Partner of the Year, SherWeb provides competitive cloud solutions to businesses and partners around the world. Founded in 1998, SherWeb is a privately owned company headquartered in Quebec, Canada. Its service portfolio includes Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Dynamics CRM and more.
The world of cloud and application development is not just for the hardened developer these days. In their session at 14th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Development Community Advocate for SoftLayer, and Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, will pull back the curtain of the architecture of a fun demo application purpose-built for the cloud. They will focus on demonstrating how they leveraged compute, storage, messaging, and other cloud elements hosted at SoftLayer to lower the effort and difficulty of putting together a useful application. This will be an active demonstration and review of simple command-line tools and resources, so don’t be afraid if you are not a seasoned developer.
SYS-CON Events announced today that BUMI, a premium managed service provider specializing in data backup and recovery, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 14th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. Manhattan-based BUMI (Backup My Info!) is a premium managed service provider specializing in data backup and recovery. Founded in 2002, the company’s Here, There and Everywhere data backup and recovery solutions are utilized by more than 500 businesses. BUMI clients include professional service organizations such as banking, financial, insurance, accounting, hedge funds and law firms. The company is known for its relentless passion for customer service and support, and has won numerous awards, including Customer Service Provider of the Year and 10 Best Companies to Work For.
Chief Security Officers (CSO), CIOs and IT Directors are all concerned with providing a secure environment from which their business can innovate and customers can safely consume without the fear of Distributed Denial of Service attacks. To be successful in today's hyper-connected world, the enterprise needs to leverage the capabilities of the web and be ready to innovate without fear of DDoS attacks, concerns about application security and other threats. Organizations face great risk from increasingly frequent and sophisticated attempts to render web properties unavailable, and steal intellectual property or personally identifiable information. Layered security best practices extend security beyond the data center, delivering DDoS protection and maintaining site performance in the face of fast-changing threats.
From data center to cloud to the network. In his session at 3rd SDDC Expo, Raul Martynek, CEO of Net Access, will identify the challenges facing both data center providers and enterprise IT as they relate to cross-platform automation. He will then provide insight into designing, building, securing and managing the technology as an integrated service offering. Topics covered include: High-density data center design Network (and SDN) integration and automation Cloud (and hosting) infrastructure considerations Monitoring and security Management approaches Self-service and automation
In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, David Holmes, Vice President at OutSystems, will demonstrate the immense power that lives at the intersection of mobile apps and cloud application platforms. Attendees will participate in a live demonstration – an enterprise mobile app will be built and changed before their eyes – on their own devices. David Holmes brings over 20 years of high-tech marketing leadership to OutSystems. Prior to joining OutSystems, he was VP of Global Marketing for Damballa, a leading provider of network security solutions. Previously, he was SVP of Global Marketing for Jacada where his branding and positioning expertise helped drive the company from start-up days to a $55 million initial public offering on Nasdaq.