All of us have a bit of open source in our lives, whether it is in that Android smartphone or the streaming music application on our MP3 player or iPod. Open source development is kind of a big deal right now because it is a streamlined, efficient and cost-effective way to develop application. What’s more, it allows you to harness crowd power for free!
Most applications that we have reviewed, so far, have been proprietary. This means that the vendor invests in manpower and infrastructure to devise and code the software. This investment is translated into software costs for you.
This week, we will look at a different kind of solution: we will review XTuple, which is an open-source ERP solution. We will look at its interface, functionality and see how it can be of use to you.
WHAT DO I GET OUT OF OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE?
Cost and crowd sourcing implications aside, I asked Ned Lilly, CEO of XTuple.com, more about the perceived benefits of an ERP solution. He zeroed in on three key advantages of commercial open-source ERP: affordable (because they cost significantly lower than other solutions), flexible (because you have the source code, you can configure and customize the solution to pretty much all of your needs) and free and continuous support in the form of a distributed development army of volunteers across the world.
Although they own the code for XTuple Lilly and his team chose to distribute the core PostBooks edition of XTuple to make it more accessible (and adaptable) for users around the world. According to Lilly, the strategy has paid off. “Our community of users (free and paid) help us continue to enhance the product (from a quality perspective as well as new features),” he says. This is in addition to translating the product into 25 languages and localizing the software for implementation around the world.
Enough said about the benefits, though. How does open-sourcing their code base translate into benefits for the customer.
Lilly says they try to make as much material available publicly as possible – documentation, videos, online training classes. In addition, for those who wish to develop add-on components, work can be done in a graphical screen editor (which is embedded in the application). “For the deeper-dive programmers out there, they will find a wellspring of material to support more advanced efforts – including rich APIs, and a variety of other powerful tools,” says Lilly.