ERP: Share and Share Alike

Analysis: OpenMFG helps fill the void of open-source ERP applications for small and midsized businesses.

For the largest enterprises, access to the source code of their enterprise resource planning applications is a given. The critical nature of ERP, the desire for customization and—particularly in todays regulated environment—the need for transparency of financial systems require it.

ERP applications for small and midsize businesses dont typically offer access to source code, but thats a problem open-source applications can solve.

Dozens of open-source ERP applications are available, including derived works from common open-source projects. Better-known open-source ERP applications include Compieres Compiere, the Open For Business Projects OFBiz and ERP5 Foundations ERP5.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read a review of ERP application OpenMFG 1.3.

Compiere licenses its application under Netscapes Mozilla open-source license, MPL (Mozilla Public License); the Open For Business Project licenses OFBiz under the MIT Public License; and ERP5 Foundation licenses its application under the GNU GPL (General Public License).

The "open" in OpenMFGs OpenMFG refers more to open access to source code and to the fact that the product is built on open-source applications than it does to OpenMFGs being an open-source application itself.

The OpenMFG license protects the companys intellectual property while giving customers the option of viewing and modifying source code and making source code contributions.

OpenMFG officials said a reseller, for example, has contributed an improvement to the applications bill-of-materials planning feature that the reseller developed for a customer.

By soliciting contributions while retaining control of the source code, OpenMFG can provide two important benefits for customers.

First, the company adds functionality without the added third-party costs associated with more traditional commercial ERP add-on products. Second, it can ensure quality of code while providing a single source of support.

Given that modules are the bread and butter of ERP applications—with basic accounting spreading out to encompass supply chain, manufacturing, human resources and project management—contributions to open-source ERP applications make them more competitive with commercial offerings that generally have a broader set of modules already available.

Open-source applications have had success in building out functionality through module contributions and derivative work. For example, both Compiere and OFBiz have spawned derivative and complementary projects for adding other ERP functionality, such as fixed asset, HR, manufacturing and point-of-sale management.

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