As part of our open source ERP Installation Guides series, we will walk through the installation of Postbooks, an ERP solution from Xtuple.
The Business Software Hybrid Model
Xtuple took a path which is becoming increasingly popular among business software vendors – adopting a hybrid model, combining free,open source offering along with proprietary, commercial products. This trend, of companies selling commercial products while releasing some of the code as open source, emphasizes the strength of the open source movement, especially in the context of business software – these companies understand they can benefit from the advantages of the communities flourishing around open source projects. The licensing fees these companies loose due to the free distribution of their software is covered by services they offer around these strong products.
Back to Postbooks, it is the younger sibling of OpenMFG, a mature, well established manufacturing solution. Postbooks focuses on Accounting and CRM, complementing OpenMFG’s strong manufacturing module. You can see from our own open source ERP projects activity trends page that Postbooks is a very active project with over 400 daily downloads.
As I always do before installing open source ERP software, before of going to the projects’ Sourceforge download area,I first visit its official website.
I Googled Postbooks and got straight to the products page on Xtuple’s website. I am always looking around for a clear,easy to find download link. I could find a Sourceforge banner linking to Postbooks’ project in Sourceforge. Nice!
Browsing the download page of Postbooks, I couldn’t help but feel that something is different – I couldn’t find any server installation files or a tar file to unarchive. After a couple of minutes reading through some documents, I found out that Postbooks (as well as OpenMFG, I assume) is a 2-tier software.
Software Architecture – 2 Vs. 3 Tiers
A word about software architecture – for the past 20-30 years, the dominant business application architecture was 3-tier: Database layer, Application (or business logic) layer and presentation layer (UI,User Interface).
That means that when you are installing 3-tier software, you would first install a database engine (Oracle,MySQL,DB2 or any other database engine) , then install the server software, which connects to the database but also does many other things, mainly running the business logic of the application, and finally – a user interface,connecting directly to the application layer.
Postbooks completely skips the 2nd layer and maintains the applications’ business logic in the database. That means the client software is connecting directly to the database. I will not go through the pros and cons of this approach, but it is a fairly unusual in the ERP space.
One advantage this approach has is that it makes installing such a software very simple – you just need to run a couple of scripts on your database, install the client software and you are set to go.
Postbooks Installation Procedure
To install Postbooks, you need a PostgreSQL server running on your machine. To remind you, I am using Ubuntu Linux as my operating system so getting PostgreSQL to run is very simple.
The entire installation process is very simple. Installing Postbooks on Ubuntu Linux is described in this great tutorial. This tutorial uses the Ubuntu machine as both database server and client software, while I downloaded the Postbooks windows client and ran it off of my windows machine.
To summarize the experience, the installation was a breeze, in part due to the unique 2-tier architecture.