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Open Source for Business: Now More Than Ever, Part 1

By Jack M. Germain
Oct 4, 2007 4:00 AM PT

Business-targeted open source software has made great strides recently, from CRM systems to business intelligence to server software. Open source software resides at all levels of the business software stack, from servers to middleware to the front end. It powers Web services, databases and mobile devices.

Open Source for Business: Now More Than Ever, Part 1

Developers are seeing the strongest growth in open source applications within the small and mid-size business community. Larger companies often have internal barriers in place that deter interest in non-commercial proprietary software.

For instance, some companies require support if they are going to buy or lease an application or service. Others require the right set of features, roughly comparable to commercial products. Still other companies have proprietary vendors locked in.

"We are seeing more people adopting open source business solutions. It is becoming successful with mid-sized businesses. Until now, people were ignoring this market," Barry Klawans, Open Solutions Alliance board member/spokesperson and JasperSoft CTO, told LinuxInsider.

Driving Issues

Two primary factors are at play in the continuing adoption of open source business applications. First is the emergence of Web 2.0 user-driven content and video sites. Getting more bang for the software buck is also a powerful motivating force, according to Jim Connolly, director of software development for financial technology company Kettley.

"Building scaleable LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) stack server farms are much more economically viable than similar solutions based on other commercial operating systems and applications," Connolly told LinuxInsider. "At the corporate level, reduced price is the driving force." A second driving force is a greater familiarity with open source that did not exist previously in business. For example, as hobbyists and hardcore software developers move into the corporate world and management positions, they bring with them a fresh attitude toward integrating open source applications.

No App Scarcity

The growth of open source applications in the business workplace, at least to some degree, is the result of a large inventory of program choices. There is no shortage of business-ready, open source applications.

"There are literally thousands of business-ready applications available to an enterprise. Though the number of open source business-ready apps is growing, they're still limited in scope and scalability, with a few notable exceptions," William Hurley, BMC Software's chief architect of open source strategy, told LinuxInsider.

This growing inventory of open source products is pushing competition to new levels. For example, open source projects are driving change in the market and forcing traditional software companies to step up, Hurley said.

Open Source Roundup

LinuxInsider compiled a list of open source business applications based on the recommendations of business leaders.

  • SugarCRM: SugarCRM is one of the best known commercial open source alternatives to, a sales force automation application, in the CRM field. It helps companies manage customer relationships to improve marketing effectiveness, drive sales performance and improve customer satisfaction.
  • SplendidCRM: SplendidCRM Open-Source 1.4 is free customer relationship management product. SplendidCRM Professional 1.4 includes the SQL source code that is typically necessary to integrate SplendidCRM into back-office systems. The focus on 1.4 incorporates key .NET 2.0 technologies. The new version allows system integrators to add user-customizable features to applications as provided by MasterPages, Themes, WebParts and Ajax.
  • Jboss: JBoss Enterprise Middleware is enterprise-class open source software platform used to build, deploy, integrate and present Web applications and services in a Services Oriented Architecture. JBoss Enterprise Platforms integrate multiple projects and components, all at different versions with different dependencies, into a single, stable, certified distribution with support, patches and updates, documentation and a multi-year maintenance policy.
  • Xensource: XenEnterprise v4 is a platform managing virtualization tool for aggregated pool of compute and storage resources for dynamic managed virtualization environments for the enterprise. It uses a dedicated virtualization platform based on the Xen hypervisor.
  • Asterisk Trixbox: Trixbox is a business class IP PBX system based on Digum's Asterisk Open Source PBX Software. Trixbox CE is the original free, fully featured, open source PBX application platform system. Trixbox Pro family (including the free SE version) is a hybrid-hosted solution aimed at reliability, ease of use and supportability.
  • Postgresql: PostgreSQL is an open source relational database system. It runs on all major operating systems, including Linux, Unix (AIX, BSD, HP-UX, SGI IRIX, Mac OS X, Solaris, Tru64) and Windows. It is fully ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) compliant, has full support for foreign keys, joins, views, triggers and stored procedures (in multiple languages). It includes most SQL92 and SQL99 data types, including Integer, Numeric, Boolean, Char, Varchar, Date, Interval and Timestamp. It also supports storage of binary large objects, including pictures, sounds or video. It has native programming interfaces for C/C++, Java, .Net, Perl, Python, Ruby, Tcl and ODBC, among others, and exceptional documentation.
  • Alfresco: Alfresco is an open source alternative for enterprise content management (ECM). Its features include tools for Content Management, Document Management, Collaboration, Records Management, Knowledge Management, Web Content Management and imaging. Alfresco integrates state-of-the-art open source and Java technology such as Spring, Hibernate, Lucene, MyFaces, JSR-168, JSR-170 and Web services into one platform. The intelligent repository provides out-of-the-box portal integration and full content control with integrated document management, security, document status and workflow.
  • Compiere: Compiere provides open source enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relations management (CRM) applications. The company pioneered the use of Model Driven Architecture (MDA) in ERP solutions. MDA enables customization of fields, windows, security, workflow and other business logic without programming and without system downtime to implement. This can result in broader application adaptability, faster deployments and lower cost of ownership than products utilizing earlier generation enterprise software architectures.

Open Source for Business: Now More Than Ever, Part 2

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