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Deployment is where solution providers can really provide service. Compared to an SAP or Oracle deployment, Openbravo is relatively easy, but it's still not plug-and-play. An ERP implementation typically is handled by, or at least, supported by, system integrators and consultants. This works well with Openbravo's distribution model, which relies on the channel.
Openbravo is available in two versions: the Community Edition and Network Edition. Community Edition is available for free from SourceForge.net and intended for developers and non-critical environments. The Network Edition is the production-ready and stable solution, available through certified partners. For this Test Center review, Openbravo Community Edition was installed.
The latest features are available in the Community Edition and there are frequent releases throughout the year, while the Network Edition is updated biannually. For an annual subscription (prices vary depending on number of users or unlimited use), the Network Edition offers automatic upgrades, bug-fixes, unlimited support, and embedded licenses for proprietary software and third-party support.
Montclair, N.J.-based Corra Technology is an open-source solution provider providing system integration, support, and consulting services. CEO Ron Bongo estimated the company has already been contracted to do four or five Openbravo installations in 2008, and the company expects to do at least ten or fifteen this year.
ERP systems have to support big companies with complex business systems and a large user base. Does Openbravo scale? Bongo said a typical Openbravo deployment for Corra Technology is in the $10 million to $100 million range, and scalability has never been a problem. The company's focus on model-driven architecture makes the application stable, scalable, and easy to develop for.
System integrators with software development capabilities can develop applications for Openbravo, especially with the Eclipse IDE. Other applications can synchronize data with Openbravo using the Java-based Openbravo API. Also, Openbravo ERP is released under the Mozilla Public License 1.1, which means the code can be used as a foundation for other proprietary licensed products.
Openbravo also offers Openbravo POS, an application specifically designed for touch screens used in the retail industry. Openbravo POS can work together with Openbravo ERP, or separately in any existing point-of-sale environment.
System integrators can speed up some of the deployment by creating an appliance with the basic components pre-installed. With proper hardware, the appliance can have the ERP system and its dependencies in place, waiting to be configured according to each customer's individual specifications and requirements.
A note about documentation and support: many open source projects often rush to get the product out, which often means documentation, if available, is usually skimpy and often riddled with errors. While a strong community-driven-forum is essential for an open source project, businesses need access to thorough, in-depth, and clearly written documentation. Openbravo shines in this aspect. The installation guide, user manual, and associated reference materials on configuring third-party applications and hardware specifications are superb. Bongo said Openbravo spent a long time getting the software ready, but also in getting the commercial team behind the product for support. "They have all the pieces in place," he said.
Corra Technology is in the enviable position of not having to convince customers to consider open-source deployments since "99 percent" of its customers approach the company asking for open-source solutions. For solution providers still trying to convince their customers, selling open-source ERP doesn't have to be a difficult conversation. According to Bongo, many CIOs are actively considering open-source solutions when considering IT projects. Open source solutions save customers money, especially for ERP. Customers can specify their requirements and have only those services in the ERP system, so that they are not paying for services they aren't interested in. The ease of customization also means customers are no longer locked in to expensive ERP software and supporting systems.