96 4.6 Summary
Acquisition of an ERP or CRM product typically drives technology
choices right through the business, since the package is so large and influ-
ential that application server, database, and infrastructure platforms cho-
sen for it usually will become the standards for other developments at the
same time.
SAP, PeopleSoft, and Oracle all offer their entire product lines on Linux.
So it is possible to install ERP (and CRM) systems on a Linux platform.
SAP also offers support for the open source database Max DB from
MySQL, formerly the SAP database.
There do not appear to be any large open source ERP or CRM prod-
ucts—that is, products that would be comparable to SAP, PeopleSoft, Ora-
cle, or Siebel. There are some smaller systems, such as Compiere and Open
For Business (OFB). Compiere is based on Java and Oracle, with an open
source database in the planning stages. Neither of these products has an
enterprise-level customer, or a very complete set of modules.
Do You Need Integrated ERP or CRM?
You may not need all of the features of an ERP package. Most customers
buy only a few components (if only because of the cost). Perhaps the bun-
dling was an artifact of commercial software.
All commercial companies have tended to grow by acquiring products
that are related. Further, in a closed code software model, integration tends
to happen because the software firm has the only access to data. In an open
source model, customers or third parties can access data and create comple-
mentary modules. A similar situation can arise with the up-sell of an ERP
or CRM vendor adding portal, data warehouse, or other products. This
might leverage economies of scale, but more likely exploits the direct sales
relationship and the closed code data formats of these types of products.
So, customers who just need something like Quickbooks for account-
ing, or on a larger scale Great Plains, might have some open source choices.
Similarly, customers who need just call center, customer service manage-
ment, or sales force automation might find single products, particularly for
smaller businesses. Two products to consider are Tutos and SQL-Ledger.
4.6 Summary
Open source offers several business opportunities. The following is a sum-
mary of this chapter, with the ideas that will work for most people simply
4.6 Summary 97
Chapter 4
For most people, the first thing we can do is to set up an open source
lab, and use the lab as a base to review and publicize open source activity,
evaluate or create and test solutions, and train technical and user personnel.
The lab should deploy the Linux distributions and other software on which
you would like to standardize. This prepares the path for the other steps.
We can train developers in one or two open source languages, probably
Python and PHP, and train administrators in Linux, Samba, OpenLDAP,
and Perl or Python scripting.
We can migrate infrastructure servers to open source using a combina-
tion of Samba on Linux servers and network-attached storage appliances.
This saves money on client licensing and simplifies management. We can
start with simple file/print sharing without strong security concerns. If we
have directory-based security needs, we need to choose between using
Samba 3 to support Active Directory or consider deploying OpenLDAP as
a replacement for or alongside the closed source directory.
We can build one or more LAMP applications. This tool set speeds and
simplifies development and can save money over alternatives. The most
likely simple success will be to build some PHP Web applications using
Apache and either MySQL or whichever database you currently use. These
could be new applications or rewrites of old code trapped on obsolete plat-
forms or databases.
We can investigate and begin bringing new open source systems to the
underserved. We may be able to open up opportunities for solutions that
were not possible before. Likely groups to consider include franchisees;
business partners; customers; employees in factories, warehouses, and
stores; and the local community. In such groups we may have influence but
cannot control the operating environment or software purchasing. Offering
office suites, image manipulation, or email and messaging without expen-
sive licensing fees may allow us to offer systems or exchange information
without great expense.
We can migrate applications and databases from other operating sys-
tems, such as UNIX and Novell, to Linux and one or two standardized
databases. This can simplify system and application management and take
out some old recurring costs. If it is a database that we are planning on con-
tinuing to use, such as Oracle, we can migrate to Oracle on Linux. If it is an
obsolete or deprecated database system, such as Progress, Btrieve, or Access,
we can move it to MySQL or PostgreSQL. For applications we wish to
replace, we can look at new packages running on Linux or develop new
Web applications using LAMP.

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