More than just tools that roll new code from scratch, the open-source arsenal also offers enterprise developers a wide range of prebuilt components and application skeletons that can be used to jump-start an in-house application or a vertical-market solution.
Sophisticated CRM (customer relationship management) suites are among the highlights of what we might call the open-source WMDs (warehouses of modular development).
One such CRM tool is Hipergate, produced by the Spanish company KnowGate SL. A surprisingly comprehensive suite of enterprise CRM application components, Hipergate is offered under a license similar to but slightly more restrictive than the GNU GPL (General Public License).
Not confined to the open-source LAMP platform of Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, Perl and/or Python, Hipergate accommodates multiple database back ends, including Oracle Corp.s Oracle and SQL Server from Microsoft Corp.
The server side is available for IBMs OS/400 as well as in versions for Linux and Windows. The suites capabilities include collaborative calendar management and contact management, project tracking, and product sales call-center functions such as order and invoice management.
Closer to home is the team at SugarCRM Inc., in Cupertino, Calif., whose Sugar Suite product line comprises not only Sugar Open Source (distributed under Mozilla Public License 1.1) but also its visible-source superset, Sugar Professional.
Sugar CRMs high-end offering is available in hosted and appliance-configured versions, either of which answers the question of how a commercial open-source company makes money: It gets its foot in the door with an open-source offering that demonstrates high quality, a strong feature set and good product support, then hopes to upsell the more capable and more fully supported product.
In the process, an open-source offering such as SugarCRMs can boost other ventures. Aimed at similar needs, for example, is Vtiger CRM from the India-based consultancy Vtiger.com. Vtigers revenue comes from systems integration services, but it builds its CRM modules on open-source foundations.
The projects underpinnings include not only Sugars open-source components but also the familiar LAMP stack, with the whole being offered under Mozilla Public License 1.1, just like Sugars code. On top of that foundation, Vtiger adds such enhancements as Microsoft Outlook integration to woo enterprise users.
Offerings such as Hipergate, Sugar Suite and Vtiger CRM should convince even skeptics that open-source enterprise development is not only for the extremes of commodity code at the low end or specialized requirements at the high end. The solid center of workplace applications is in the cross hairs of the open-source movement, and conventional vendors will have to be nimble if they dont want to get caught in the crossfire.