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The Enterprise System Spectator

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Open source ERP gaining adherents

Open source ERP systems--thus far a small slice of the market--are becoming more attractive in light of the rapid vendor consolidation of commercial ERP packages.

At least that's what this eWeek article claims.
The director of operations at Marena Group, a manufacturer for post-surgical garments, [John] Rogelstad had a Lilly Software Associates ERP system in place, but after Lilly was acquired by Infor Global Solutions, he found a dramatic decrease in support. With several big IT initiatives in the pipeline, Marena started to feel uneasy with Infor as a partner. "We felt like since Infor acquired Lilly, they were getting very bureaucratic and disorganized. Our sense was they were more interested in acquisitions than working on their core product or developing a new core," said Rogelstad in Lawrenceville, Ga.
Rogelstad chose OpenMFG, a quasi-open-source system, as a replacement for Infor's Lilly.

The article also highlights implementations of another open source ERP system, Compiere, at Pertronix, in San Dimas, CA, and at e-BuckMail.com, in Hudson, WI.

Although open source applications, especially enterprise systems such as ERP, are not as widely implemented as open source infrastructure software, such as Linux and Apache, the trend does seem to be increasing. Clients used to point to the assurance that commercial software vendors stood behind their products, promising support and investment in R&D. But with the acceleration of vendor consolidation and the sunsetting of products, those assurances aren't what they used to be.

The continuity of support for open source systems, which depend on a network of interested parties, starts to look like a more attractive model.

Related posts
Why organizations choose open source software

by Frank Scavo, 7/12/2006 08:55:00 AM | permalink | e-mail this!

 Reader Comments:

The guy from Marena Group seems somewhat disorganized in what is says, quote: they were getting very bureaucratic and disorganized

How one can get bureaucratic and disorganized at the same time? Considering my own experience, then yes, Lilly-Infor has become more bureaucratic. Inevitably this means that the comfort levels of the average customer are not as they used to be.

Lilly used to have much of this 'family business' feeling in what it did, with all the good and bad sides of it. All companies grow up or will be acquired and this is what happens. Besides this (and it is almost 2 years after the acquisition) I have not heard of companies abandoning Visual.

Comparing Visual and OpenMFG is not honest as one is a mature product and the other a work in progress. But open source does miracles, so maybe in a couple of years time they are more comparable.

My guess is that Visual was an overkill for Marena, this is the only verdict I could derive, considering the difference in the depth and breadth of functionality of these two products.
Actually, we see lots of people abandoning Visual and other legacy products that are getting rolled up into acquisition shops like Infor and M2M. I do a little blogging of my own on this topic at the ERP Graveyard Blog.

I'm curious what is the basis for the description of OpenMFG as a "work in progress." The product is in its fourth major release, and has a growing community of users globally.

You can evaluate the product functionality with a dozen video demos at www.openmfg.com/demo/video and even download a fully functional client at www.openmfg.com/download.

As Frank indicated, we've chosen a hybrid model - customers and partners get full source code, and we bring their enhancements back into the product. But it's not free software, and we still play most of the (positive) roles of a traditional vendor, in terms of product direction, support, QA/QC, documentation, etc.
There seems to be some misuse of the word 'legacy' here that traditionally in IT has a taste of 'technologically outdated' and 'not any more officially supported'. Yes, Visual is the oldest Windows based manufacturing software, but that does not make it legacy.

'Rolled up' may mean different things, but in Visuals' case it is the same organization in the same place as you can read from another Frank's post.

Could you quantify the phrase "lots of people abandoning Visual and other..". A small drift away from a product is common with all major ERP vendors, so pointing to one of the many, without comparative data, is not very fair.

I have looked at Visual and also at OpenMFG. I have not done feature-by-feature comparison, but the overall impression was that there is some road to go for OpenMFG compared to Visual. I guess a good thing to do is to contact say http://www.ctsguides.com and enroll to the next years survey.

To put things in context - I am a fan of FOSS products and business models, using PostgreSQL, PHP, Linux (incl desktop Linux) in our projects, OpenOffice where possible etc, currently experimenting with FOSS BI.

The message is this - OpenMFG definitely does have a future. However, you cannot prove your supremacy or parity with argumentation that is not entirely precise or true and that may hurt the undertaking. I admit that I myself have some room for improvement in this.
My point was simply that as products like Visual get acquired, the organizations behind them get "rightsized," and the outlook for ongoing development and support of the product is substantially affected. All the more so when there are so many products under one roof, as is the case with Infor now.

I really believe it has everything to do with short-term financial gain for the PEGs who bankroll Infor, SSA, M2M, and the like, and very little to do with long-term customer relationships. And in our business, we are seeing daily evidence that customers and partners are coming to the same conclusion.

As for OpenMFG functionality, I don't think we could be more transparent than we are on our website. Take a look for yourself, and draw your own conclusions. Thanks for the pointer to CTS Guides - they had slipped off our radar. But we're in lots of other places, including Technology Evaluation, SoftSelect, etc. And we've had very positive product reviews recently in eWeek and CRN, among other places.


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