ERP in 2015 – free and open!

cmitBack in the 1990’s I ran an IT Center in Georgia with a mission to help small to mid size companies select and implement off the shelf ERP software. Over an eight year period I assisted hundreds of companies in their quest to upgrade or acquire an ERP system. Back then ERP systems all tended to be proprietary commercial, client/server, installed on on-premise servers, and accessed by users over local and wide area networks. None ran as web apps over the public Internet aka SaaS (Software as a Service) and there were virtually no open source ERP systems of any consequence.

Fast forward to today and you see ERP systems running on a variety of platforms, Windows and most flavors of Linux, and many are available as SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions where you don’t have to know or care which operating system they are running on.

While the most popular ERP systems, especially for larger companies, are from SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft; there are also a number of open source solutions available to freely download and deploy as you see fit.

Besides the obvious benefit of being free, today’s open source ERP solutions have several other advantages including a wide variety of deployment scenarios, hundreds of volunteer developers, and large support communities. Most of these systems are backed by companies who provide optional fee based Software as a Service plans, premier support, installation, migration, and integration  support, etc. But you always have the option of downloading and implementing the software yourself completely free of charge, either on premise on your own server or on a cloud platform such as Amazon EC2 or Microsoft Azure.

Some of the most popular open source ERP solutions include the following:

Odoo – With over two million users Odoo seems to be by far the most popular of the open source ERP options. I’ve used Google Trends to compare all of these open source ERP systems and Odoo seems to stand out far ahead of all the others as you can see in the following Google trend graph. I’ve tried all combinations and get similar results each time regardless of which (open source) ERP systems I compare with Odoo.

erptrends

Odoo provides an integrated suite of apps for CRM, Accounting, Manufacturing, Warehouse Management, Project Management, eCommerce, Web Site, and on and on with hundreds of applications that can be bolted on as the need arises. Odoo offers a fee based cloud hosted solution (free for the first 2 users) or you can download all of the software for free and install it yourself.

odoo
Odoo Setup Screen to Install Optional Modules

Odoo is written in Python and uses the PostgreSQL database. Screens can be customized but you should be able to handle Python if you want to do the customization yourself.

With Odoo and most of these systems you have a wide variety of deployment options; local on premise server, Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, Digital Ocean, etc. So far my favorite method of deployment for a multi-user Odoo server is the Bitnami Odoo Stack which can be launched with a single click onto Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, or VM Ware vCloud. There are also pre-configured Docker containers for Odoo.

ERPNext – This system is inexpensive at only $300 per year for 5 users on the hosted version. It’s also easy to install the free version yourself either on premise or cloud. ERPNext is designed for self-implementation. The Setup Wizard helps you get started with your Company, Items, Customers, and Suppliers. Included are modules for accounting, managing inventory, sales, purchase, and project management. The applications that make up ERPNext are form-driven—you fill information in a set of fields and let the application do the rest. The whole suite is easy to use.

ERPNext is written in Python and uses the MariaDB database.

Dolibarr – Easy one-click install onto most Linux hosting platforms such as Hostgator and Siteground. Designed for small companies,  foundations and freelances.  Written in PHP and uses either MySql or PostgreSQL database and installers are available for Windows, Debian/Ubuntu, Fedora/Redhat/OpenSuse. Documentation is available at http://wiki.dolibarr.org/

Opentaps – I haven’t tried this package but their website highlights some impressive case studies with high profile companies like Honeywell and Toyota. You can read about features available here.

An Opentaps Amazon Machine Image is available to install onto Amazon’s EC2 cloud platform. I haven’t tried it yet but I know it’s available.

Written in Enterprise Java using either MySQL or PostgreSQL databases.

Compiere – This ERP system is the only one I recall from back in the 1990’s as the first open source ERP package of any consequence. Back then it seemed hard to install compared to competing commercial packages and so I did not promote it in my IT Center. Compiere has since been acquired by Aptean, a company that has acquired many commercial ERP packages over the years including some I demonstrated at my center…Made2Manage for example is now owned by Aptean.

Compiere is written in Java and runs on Postgres and Oracle databases.

webERP – This is an easy to install ERP web application available on most commercial hosting platforms such as Siteground and Hostgator.  I installed on my Siteground hosting account with a single click of the mouse. webERP is a complete web based accounting and business management system that requires only a web-browser and pdf reader to use. It has a wide range of features suitable for many businesses particularly distributed businesses in wholesale, distribution and manufacturing.

Written in PHP with a mysql database.

There are other ERP systems that claim to be open source…and technically I’m sure are open source. However they make obtaining and installing the “free” version (usually called the Community version) of their software difficult and hard to find with virtually zero support of any kind.  I’m leaving them out of this list on purpose. Not that there is anything wrong with these packages but in this post I wanted to try and highlight some of the easiest open source ERP systems to obtain and install as well as provide readers with a glimpse of the many solutions that are available nowadays in this space.

In summary open source software is being used more than ever before in modern Enterprises, including open source ERP solutions, that may be just as functional as their commercial counterparts but without a marketing organization to promote them get much less attention and awareness.  Hopefully articles like this one will help get the word out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SQL Saturday Atlanta – 2015 is in the books!

One of my favorite technology events every year is SQL Saturday. For the past few years it’s been held at Georgia State’s Alpharetta campus. Each year I’m newly amazed by the huge turnout at this event, which is always sold out with a couple of dozen people standing around check-in early in the morning just hoping to get in. It always makes me realize that SQL Server is a big deal!

Some of this years tracks included Big Data & Data Science, Powershell, BIML, BI, ETL/SSIS, Reporting & Visualization, and DBA. I found myself glued to the big data track with sessions so interesting I couldn’t bring myself to leave the room! My favorite session for the day was Sentiment Analysis with Big Data by Paco Gonzalez, which touched upon data mining techniques including natural language processing and text mining Twitter data for sentiment and tone analysis. Pretty cool stuff!

SQL Saturday events are held worldwide throughout the year. You can check the schedule for events in your area on this site which lists them all.

http://www.sqlsaturday.com/

 

 

Salesforce Platform Workshop

Living in Atlanta gives me the opportunity to attend many top quality technology events entirely free of charge (except for an occasional parking fee). I recently attended one such event…a one day hands-on development class held at the Atlanta Salesforce offices, located on the 33rd floor of the One Atlanta Plaza building in Buckhead just across the street from the Lenox Marta Station…nice location!

buckhead
View of Buckhead skyline from Atlanta Salesforce Offices

The class, Salesforce Platform Workshop, was standing room only and they actually had to bring in extra chairs to accommodate additional unexpected attendees. A printed workbook was provided but you could also follow online at http://bit.ly/atlantadevworkshop.

Class entailed a series of hands-on exercises building a conference management application from scratch that included applying some of the latest Force.com technologies, Process Builder and Lightening Connect.  We even entered and deployed some Apex code for triggers to send email notifications whenever new records were entered. We ran out of time before the final module, deploying an app on Heroku and using the Salesforce REST APIs, but since we have the workbook I was able to work through this module afterwards on my own.

Two best tips I picked up were (1) you can’t make a standard object the detail in a Master-Detail relationship and (2) always put the relationship field on the object that needs to lookup, a concept I often get confused about.

The most valuable part of the day for me was working through an exercise using Lightening Connect to sync an external data source via a REST interface so that it looks like part of the Force.com application. This was something I wasn’t aware of prior to the workshop and something I can put to use immediately.

All in all a good day…much thanks to the local Atlanta Salesforce team for hosting the workshop!

 

 

 

Rise of the Rest in Atlanta with Steve Case

Yesterday I was privileged to attend Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest tour stop held in Atlanta at the Opera House on Crescent Street in midtown Atlanta. I have to say it was an awesome event!

Whenever I attend an event at the Opera House I try to get a spot in one of the 2nd floor box seats…where often I’m all alone in a big comfy cushioned seat with a table (to set my laptop) and a great view of the main stage. Today I got a perfect spot from which to watch the show!

The first hour was a fireside chat by Steve where he discussed how Atlanta could increase entrepreneurship through more celebrating of entrepreneurship, mentoring of new entrepreneurs, and connecting; while focusing on Atlanta’s advantages of diversity and large company partnering opportunities.

According to Steve, 75% of all venture capital in the US goes to white men located in three states (New York, Massachusetts, and California).  His #riseofrest message is that we need to level this playing field and provide opportunities to all the other communities of capable entrepreneurs by leveraging the unique strengths found in each community.

one

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was a  surprise speaker at the event who gave a short welcome speech.

two

For the next two hours we were treated to 5 minute pitches from eight local Atlanta startup companies all competing to win $100,000 from Steve that afternoon! Judging was done by a distinguished panel of judges seen below.

three

The pitch competitors this afternoon were:

1. Cooleaf

2. Ground Floor

3. local roots

4. Village Micro Fund

5. Zyrobotics

6. eCredable

7. revealestate

8. partpic

All of the pitches were well done. If I had the money I would invest in all of them. But only one won the day with the panel of judges.

And the $100,000 winner was, partpic!

four

The after-party was held on the outside patio of the Opera House Nightclub. ..very nice indeed!

five

 

Some of the tweets from the day…..

“Partnering between startups and large corporations can be a core competence of Atlanta.”

Pitch #5: provides personalized accessible robotic therapy to kids with motor limitations. Company.

Pitch #6. makes every payment count and builds a credit score that uses ALL your payment data.

. uses technology & robotics to help kids with disabilities get therapy in pitch #5

Huge thanks to for bringing his tour to our ATL. Congrts to on the $100k pitch prize.

The 3rd wave of the internet will require more partnerships btwn startups and corporations and government.

The mission of -based is to build a better experience for private real estate transactions.

Automatically add one or more child records in Quickbase with API_AddRecord

I spend a good portion of my time building and supporting Enterprise applications using Intuit’s Quickbase, a popular Platform as a Service solution. The great thing about Quickbase is the ease with which one can create standard business applications that follow Master-Detail design patterns such as invoicing, purchase orders, sales orders, work orders, etc. While Quickbase provides an excellent point-and-click interface for building and running these applications, it doesn’t  provide a built-in event model and programming language similar to VBA inside Microsoft Access or Apex inside Salesforce. So for any system requirements that go beyond functionality that can be built using  available “point-and-click” features you have to rely instead on API calls from formula URL fields or javascript pages hosted inside Quickbase; or externally hosted pages running your favorite web app programming language (PHP, Python, Javascript, C#, etc.) making their API calls from outside Quickbase. Another approach, my personal favorite, uses SQL Server stored procedures along with Qunect’s ODBC connector to pull data from Quickbase into an on premise SQL Server, process it, and push it back into Quickbase in a scheduled batch job.

Recently I was asked to add two child records automatically to a parent record by clicking a button from the parent edit form. Fields in the two child records are to be populated from fields in both the parent and related grandparent objects, plus the two records will contain different field values (they are not just duplicate records).  For this solution I decided to invoke the Quickbase API in a URL formula field.  And I thought I would post the solution here as it may be useful to someone else needing to create one, two, or more child records automatically from a parent record in Quickbase. This code is copied directly from my working code and so should be fairly easy to modify for use in a different Quickbase app.

In the parent table create a formula URL field and enter the following code into the formula editor.

//BEGINNING of code

// create a text variable to add the first record

var text AddRecordOne =
URLRoot() & “db/” & [_DBID_Project_Credit] //name of the child table
& “?act=API_AddRecord&_fid_6=” & URLEncode ([Record ID#]) // connecting the child to its parent…here [RecordID] is the key in parent and _fid_6 is the related parent in the child
& “&_fid_6=” & URLEncode([Project Manager]) //one of the parent fields I want to copy into the 1st child
& “&_fid_10=” & URLEncode([Project #]) //one of the parent fields I want to copy into the 1st child
& “&_fid_7=” & URLEncode(“75”) //one of the parent fields I want to copy into the 1st child
& “&apptoken=8gy5iadjfiik8dpid7dack7xxxx”; //your app token

//create a text variable to add the second record

var text AddRecordTwo =
URLRoot() & “db/” & [_DBID_Project_Credit]
& “?act=API_AddRecord&_fid_6=” & URLEncode ([Record ID#]) // connecting the child to its parent
& “&_fid_6=” & URLEncode([Account Mgr Name]) //note these values are different for the 2nd child record
& “&_fid_10=” & URLEncode([Project #])
& “&_fid_7=” & URLEncode(“25”)
& “&apptoken=8gy5iadjfiik8dpid7dack7xxxx”;

//create a text variable to display results

var text DisplayRecord=
URLRoot() & “db/” & Dbid()
& “?a=dr&rid=” & [Record ID#];

//concatenate the three text variables into a single value

$AddRecordOne
& “&rdr=” & URLEncode($AddRecordTwo)
& URLEncode(“&rdr=” & URLEncode($DisplayRecord))

//END of code

That should do it! Questions?

Here are a couple of screen shots to help explain the implementation better….first Create a URL formula field and copy the code into the formula box as shown below. Note: Where the code below shows [Project ID] you will probably have [Record ID#] instead.

AddCreditsField1

When placing the field onto a form, if you want it to appear as an actual button, then in the Display section check the Display as a button box and enter Link text that you want to show on the button.

addbutton

 

Beware of Ghost Referral Spam!

Recently I noticed a small web  site I manage was showing an unusual amount of traffic…far more than expected. Upon checking Google Analytics under Acquisition/Channels/Referrals here’s what I found.

ghostspam

Over 80% of the traffic was being referred from the domain, www1.social-buttons.com!

After a few minutes researching this domain I found a relatively new issue has emerged known as ghost referral spam. They leave a trail in your analytics reports to entice you to click through to their spam-ridden websites while screwing up your analytics reporting and SEO analysis.

They are called ghost referrals because they NEVER visit your site. They are able to post fake pageviews to Google’s tracking service using a random series of tracking IDs. So when they happen across a series that includes your tracking ID, Google will record a referral visit from that source in your analytics reports.

Since they never actually visit your site they can’t be blocked at the server using traditional blocking techniques like IP excludes or .htaccess methods. So what to do?

There seems to be several main ideas floating around about how to most effectively handle this new threat.

The most common recommendation is to simply create a filter in Google Analytics to block them from showing up in reporting. Here’s a good article with detail step-by-step instructions and screen shots on how to setup these filters in Google Analytics.

https://www.tythewebguy.com/block-darodar-with-filtering/

Since the spammer hostnames can change frequently, thus rendering your exclude filters useless, another approach is to only INCLUDE valid hostnames by creating filters based on a hostname INCLUSION lists. Here’s an article,  Definitive Guide to Removing Referral Spam, with the details of this approach.

Yet another approach, which claims a “surefire” method using a combination of tracking changes, cookies, and filters can be found here:

http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/2015/03/19/eliminating-dumb-ghost-referral-traffic/

Why are Ghost spammers doing this in the first place? It seems no one is really sure. Speculation is they want to entice website owners to out of curiosity  visit their site for some nefarious purpose.  Perhaps it’s a shady SEO service promising to get thousands of people to look at a site? Or perhaps they are infecting visitors with malware?

Hopefully Google will take action against this and provide some additional security in Google Analytics but in the meantime this is something we’ll just have to deal with.

You’re working in technology but are you living in the right place?

Even in the technology business where everything is mostly online and even with all the modern communication capabilities we enjoy, the old adage…location, location, location…still holds true.

Where you live can be a huge advantage when it comes to access to resources, opportunities, and inspiration.

I was thinking about this yesterday while attending Amazon’s AWSome Day in Atlanta at the Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead. This was an all day training session by one of Amazons technical trainers provided free of charge.  It was a first class event with all the perks that make going to an all day lecture fun and something you might not expect even at a paid training class…great lunch, free drinks, and hors d’oeuvres.  A very good experience overall…not just for all the new knowledge gained but also for a memorable and fun day.

It’s not just the raw knowledge you pick up at these events but also the inspiration that comes from the feeling of being part of a group of so many other like minded technology enthusiasts. Something you just can’t get in isolation.

But in order to have this experience…you have to live within driving distance of Atlanta (or one of the other cities on the AWSome tour)…or pay to travel.

I was just thinking that if I still lived back in my home town in Arkansas I would never experience events like this one…and that would be a huge disadvantage for sure.

And it’s not just events by Amazon it’s also Microsoft, Google, Salesforce, IBM, and on and on. Not to mention the dozens of technology meetups held every month somewhere around the metro area.  Yesterday after AWSome Day ended I walked across the street to the Hilton and spent some time at a Salesforce event that happened to be going on at the same time.  It’s really non stop and it’s all freely available.

There’s another Amazon Web Services tour, AWS Big Data Solutions, starting later this year. Is your city on the list? schedule

AWSome Day Atlanta was pretty awesome!

I was excited when earlier this year I noticed the announcement of AWSome Day coming to Atlanta. We don’t get many events from Amazon in Atlanta…or at least not to my knowledge we haven’t…and so this one was a must attend for me.  And I have to say that after attending yesterday, on the 2nd of April, I was definitely not disappointed!20150402_091354

It was a full day of lecture by Nathan Hast (@sagenate), a technical trainer at Amazon, covering all the basics of Amazon Web Services. While  I’ve been using Amazon Web Services for storage now for many years and I’ve experimented with EC2, I really didn’t know much about all the other services so hearing them all explained over the course of the day was very helpful and provided me with a much better insight into how both large and small technology solutions can and should be architected on the AWS platform.

20150402_120635_LLSThe event was held at the Intercontinental  Hotel in Buckhead…starting at 9am and ending at 3:45. Afterwards there were really nice all you could eat hors d’oeuvres and a happy hour with free drinks on the hotel patio. Lunch was also awesome with tomato basil soup and three kinds of gourmet pizza. This was a first class event much appreciated by everyone I talked to.

duck

I’m not sure how many people attended but it looked like hundreds. They were virtually all men by the way. I don’t think I saw more than a dozen women at the event. We’ve really got to get more women into technology!

shrimp

At the end they announced another AWS event coming to Atlanta on June 9th…AWS Big Data Solutions Day…also being held at the Intercontinental Hotel.  I’ve already signed up!

chicken

 

2015 WordCamp Atlanta

2015’s sold out Wordcamp Atlanta, held at Georgia State’s Loudermilk Center, was once again one of my favorite technology events of the year. Even though I was only able to attend one day on Saturday (Friday was for WordPress beginners) I still received the usual burst of inspiration I always get when I’m exposed to the amazing range of diversity of both people and use cases that makeup the Atlanta WordPress community. I always meet interesting members of the community who are doing things I never imagined using WordPress. I’m amazed by all of the entrepreneurs, bloggers, software developers, and marketers at all levels of experience from WordPress beginner to veterans…there was something for everyone.

After a welcome by @judiknight and a very interesting keynote from Nathalie Lussier (@nathlussier) I mostly attended the developers track sessions with a few others mixed in. Here are the sessions I attended, all of which were outstanding (but my favorite was on Backbone):

Friendlier, Safer WordPress Admin Areas by Cliff Seal

The WordPress IDE: PHPStorm by Micah Wood

Put a Little Backbone in Your WordPress by Adam Silverstein

Understanding Google Analytics by Ken Granger

Rev Up Your Design Cycle by Melanie Adcock

Power of Design by Scott Fisk

Wrapping up I have to say this was one of the best organized and ran conferences I’ve ever attended. From registration, check-in, meals and snacks, wifi access, session timing, and parking validation just to name a few areas that all went perfectly in my experience.

Well done @judiknight and everyone else who contributed and to the Sponsors who provided much of the funding and tons of awesome swag.

Cassandra Day Atlanta 2015

As a heavy user of SQL relational databases for the past 25 years, I log into databases like MS SQL Server, MS Access, Oracle, and MySQL every single day when I’m at work. However over the past couple of years I’ve become aware that there’s a new kind of database called NoSQL which apparently are the database of choice in Big Data applications.

So earlier this year I was excited when I came across the announcement of an all day event to be held at the Galleria called Cassandra Day Atlanta. Fortunately I was able to attend this free event on March 19th and learn a few things about one of the more popular NoSQL databases, Apache Cassandra.

The event was sponsored by Datastax, a company selling an enterprise version of Cassandra along with consulting and support services. As an Apache open source project Cassandra can also be downloaded for free at http://cassandra.apache.org/. But with the free version you don’t get the enterprise features provided by Datastax or the support.

Walking into the event on a rainy day at the Galleria I was initially impressed by the large turnout. I don’t know the exact count but would guess several hundred in attendance. The event was divided into three tracks for beginners, advanced users, and business executives. I stuck to the beginner track where the large room I was in was packed by at least a couple hundred people.

I attended the sessions, “Getting Started with Cassandra and Datastax”, “Getting Started with Cassandra and Python”, and “Apache Cassandra Data Modeling 101”; all of which provided an excellent introduction into the technology.

My main takeaway was that since in Cassandra there are no joins and no aggregations, you have to design the database backwards from what I’m used to in the relational model. First considering the queries needed by your application and then designing schemas to fit the queries….the opposite of relational where you first design the schema to 3rd normal form and then create queries based off the well designed schema.

All very interesting I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend.

According to DB-Engines rankings, the three most popular NoSQL databases are MongoDB, Cassandra, and Redis.

Read more about NoSQL databases here.