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!