Open-Source Apps For Enterprises -- Of Every Size - InformationWeek

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7/8/2009
04:15 PM
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Open-Source Apps For Enterprises -- Of Every Size

Would you like to hear 101 ways to put open-source software to work in your company's back office? Follow me.

Would you like to hear 101 ways to put open-source software to work in your company's back office? Follow me.Datamation.com has offered a wealth of useful open-source information lately. Yesterday's post from blogger Cynthis Harvey, "101 Open Source Apps For Enterprises," is no different: Until recently, few enterprises were using open source software for back office applications, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM). But last month, an IDC survey of Western European companies found that nearly ten percent were using open source enterprise software. That's surprisingly high for a market where the industry leaders themselves have only a ten percent share. IDC also reported that the leading open source enterprise applications are growing  by 20 percent or more per year.

That's good news for the owners of the projects on our list. Unlike other categories of open-source applications, a high percentage of enterprise projects are money-making ventures that offer commercial support, training, and/or add-on features." As Harvey points out, "the scent of money is in the air" in this market. That's a very good thing, since it inevitably leads both to increased competition -- some popular enterprise software categories feature a dozen or more strong open-source contenders -- and superior customer service/support.

Don't worry too much about the term "enterprise application" here, either. Many of the projects on this list (and some others that aren't) are suitable for smaller firms precisely because they deliver the same functionality as proprietary enterprise software tools. As a result, commercial open-source vendors like SugarCRM and Compiere are proving that many smaller firms both want and need these types of applications -- if they are affordable and based upon open standards that eliminate the risk of vendor lock-in.

This list also reinforces a point I made yesterday regarding the relationship between Microsoft Office and its competitors: It makes very little sense to look at these projects strictly in terms of how their feature sets compare to a given proprietary, market-leading product.

In the enterprise-application market, the "leading brands" are both overpowered and grossly overpriced for most small and midsized firms. Furthermore, commercial open-source vendors live or die based upon the quality of their service and support; these are profit centers for an open-source business model, not irritating afterthoughts. These are two of the reasons why open-source enterprise applications are a boon to the small-business market -- and a real source of potential savings even for big companies that are smart enough to take a closer look.

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