Apache’s Open For Business (OFBiz) is one of the most promising open source ERP projects today. Apache projects are known for their high quality and are being used in almost every computing environment – either on the Internet or inside large organizations.
The next few posts will focus on OFBiz – we will start with installation, followed by creation of some master objects (customers,products), and some transactional data(sales orders,inventory movements etc.) . I will also go into details regarding the architecture of the OFBiz solution as it is a very modern one and interesting to investigate. I believe that through that architectural overview we can learn much about modern business application concept.
I will also try to add statistics from the project to the Activity Page (OFBiz allows you to create a custom RSS feed but I am not sure what data is exposed) and you can expect to see quite a few flash tutorials to give you an idea about how OFBiz looks and feels.
Once we get OFBiz covered, we will be able to compare the 3 leading open source ERP offerings : Openbravo,Compiere and OFBiz. All recorded flash tutorials will be available in our Flash Comparator and we welcome anyone who is interested in comparing these solutions to visit the Comparator.
To install Apache Open for Business, I went to the projects homepage. Apache (similar to Google Labs) has many projects in different levels of maturity. Initial, many projects start as a functional area part of an existing project,but When Apache feels a project has room to grow and has enough value as a stand-alone application, it becomes an official Apache project and in the process gets their own subdomain.
going to OFBi’s homepage, you immediately notice this is a real open source project website – very little graphics, no flash, lots of text. The word ‘User’ appears 9(!) times throughout the homepage, while Openbravo has 1 appearance and Compiere has none.
There were two pleasant surprises I could find in the projects homepage – first, a list of service providers, assisting customers in implementing OFBiz. I believe that for an open source ERP solution to be successful in the long term, there must be a strong ecosystem of implementation partners that can take the open source ERP product and really bring value customers with that solution. OFBiz offers an impressive list of service and hosting providers.
Another thing I learned was that OFBiz was putting a lot of energy into changing the look and feel of the application. That made me change my view of the OFBiz project from a platform to a product – I used to think that OFBiz will put most of its effort into the applications’ core services framework and neglect the user interface, letting other projects,built on top of OFBiz’s foundation, worry about the user interface. Making these changes to the UI, I believe now that OFBIz decided it wants to be a complete offering, not just a framework.
I was looking to get my hands on the code and get the installation started, so I followed the Getting Started link in the homepage. I was redirected to a different domain – ofbiz.org. This is where all the interesting things are happening. I was really impressed with the amount and quality of the documentation I could find.
I decided to download OFBiz from the SVN repository, compile it and populate an initial database. There is a more simple alternative – just download the archive, untar it and run OFBiz. The “Demo and Test Setup Guide” Wiki page has everything you need to get OFBiz up and running.
One word about OFBiz and databases – OFBiz is database agnostic, meaning it doesn’t care which database is used, as long as the chosen database has a JDBC driver. The default installation comes packaged with the Derby database, a lightweight database engine, good only for testing purposes.
If you plan to go to production with OFBiz, you should not use Derby – you can go for any other database engine you like. The first database that comes to mind is MySQL, but then I learned that MySQL JDBC has some licensing issues I don’t want to get into now. That does not mean you cannot use Mysql with OFBiz, but it does have implications if you intend to resell a MySQL-OFfbiz solution.
I will cover the configuration of MySQL with OFBiz in one of the next posts.