The 10 Coolest Open-Source Products Of 20095:00 PM EST Wed. Dec. 23, 2009
From the launch of Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala, to the continued emergence of Drupal as a content management system, open source made significant strides in 2009. Established products like Firefox and OpenOffice continued to flourish, while others that have been around a while, like OpenBravo ERP and Git, took impressive steps forward. Check out 10 products that made an impact on the IT Industry this year.
The Drupal content management system runs Whitehouse.gov and dozens of other high-profile Web sites. And with more than 500,000 installations to date, Drupal's success appears destined to continue. "Without a doubt, Drupal has been the runaway success story of the year," declares John Locke, principal consultant at Freelock Computing, a Seattle-based open-source consultancy. Acquia, a startup focusing on commercializing Drupal, has received more than $18 million in venture capital to date, which is testimony to the key role Drupal is playing in pushing forward the notion of the Semantic Web.
When Canonical started out in 2004, Linux was seen by many in the IT Industry as a powerful yet complex technology that was best wielded by seasoned professionals. A lot has changed since then, and Canonical's Ubuntu Linux is a big reason why.
In October, Canonical released Ubuntu 9.10, code-named "Karmic Koala," which enables companies to build their own cloud computing environments on their own servers and hardware. As it has done with desktop and server Linux, Canonical aims to take a pioneering role in cloud computing, and this release is the first step in that direction. "Ubuntu is a solid product that has continued to make leaps and bounds," says Frank Basanta, director of technology for Systems Solutions, a New York-based integrator. In Ubuntu 9.10, the addition of virtualization and cloud computing features is helping Canonical to become a serious player in this space.
Git, a distributed version control system created by Linus Torvalds to manage the Linux kernel, has very quickly entered the mainstream since its creation less than 3 years ago. The documentation that comes with Git describes it as "a fast, scalable, distributed revision control system with an unusually rich command set that provides both high-level operations and full access to internals."
"If Git isn't the the primary source code management tool for a given open source project right now, someone will have at least created a Git mirror on Github for it," says John Locke, principal consultant at Freelock Computing, a Seattle-based open-source consultancy.
Novell launched Suse Studio in July as part of its Suse Appliance Program, which aims to make it easy as pie for ISVs to build their own Linux appliances. So far, Linux solution providers are impressed with what Suse Studio brings to the table in terms of simplicity and functionality.
"It enables you to create your own appliance using an online Web presence, allowing you to bring a product to market using Suse Linux as the background OS," says Frank Basanta, director of technology for Systems Solutions, a New York-based integrator appliances.
While a bit raw and not quite ready for users without developer support, LedgerSMB has the potential to become a solid back-office accounting system. While it started out as a fork of SQL-Ledger, LedgerSMB now has a new architecture and is quickly becoming indistinguishable from its predecessor. Although much work remains, open source developers see much promise in the product. "Current versions are usable, although full of quirks, but the next release should be a big improvement," said one Linux solution provider, who asked for anonymity.
Unveiled in July, Chrome OS, an open-source system that initially will be targeted at netbooks, is Google's bid to offer a fast, lightweight and secure way to find information online. Google says Chrome OS is a separate project from its Android OS for mobile devices, although it has acknowledged that there will be some degree of overlap between the two. Google released Chrome OS to open source in November and revealed its intention to partner with as-yet-unknown hardware vendors to bring Chrome OS-powered netbooks to market in time for next year's holiday season. In doing so, Google has caused Microsoft to pay more attention to the netbook market than it had perhaps intended to.
In October, OpenOffice.org proudly declared that more than 100 million visitors had clicked on the Web site's 'Download OpenOffice.org' button since version 3.0 of the software was released in October 2008. That's a telling example of the popularity of the open source alternative to Microsoft Office and its continued advancements in features and functionality.
According to Frank Basanta, director of technology for Systems Solutions, a New York-based integrator, OpenOffice is seeing more adoption because of its increased interoperability with Office. "It's now possible to go back and forth between Office and OpenOffice and not lose any of the formatting that used to get people nervous," he said.
ERP has been slow to develop on the open source side, but Openbravo ERP is coming on strong. Users can view production information, inventory, customer information, order tracking, and workflow information through a Web browser, greatly simplifying what can be a complex tool. Of course, open source solutions like OpenBravo ERP also save money, which is especially true in the traditionally expensive realm of ERP. Customers choose and pay for only the services they want, and easy customization adds to the cost savings.
Openbravo has made impressive strides in version 2.5 with the introduction of modularity and dashboarding capabilities, says Ron Bongo, CEO of Corra Technology, a of Montclair, N.J.-based Linux solution provider. OpenBravo's modularity gives customers, partners and community members the ability to extend Openbravo to meet specific needs," he said.
Mozilla's Firefox Web browser passed the one billion download mark in July. Although it's still got a way to go before it unsets Internet Explorer, Firefox has strong momentum behind it on the strength of its speedy performance and solid security. And with benchmarks indicating that the forthcoming Firefox 3.6 is the speediest version yet, that momentum looks like it'll continue.