Project of the Month, September 2007

September 2007: Openbravo


Key developer(s):

Name: Fernando Iriazabal
Age: 31
Occupation or experience: Senior developer
Education: National diploma in software engineering
Location: Málaga, Spain

Galder Romo
Name: Galder Romo
Age: 26
Occupation or experience: Senior consultant at Openbravo
Education: Industrial engineering in Tecnun, University of Navarra
Location: Pamplona, Spain

Gorka Ion Damian
Name: Gorka Ion Damián
Age: 26
Occupation or experience: Senior developer at Openbravo
Education: Industrial engineering in Tecnun, University of Navarra
Location: Pamplona, Spain

Juan Pablo Aroztegi
Name: Juan Pablo Aroztegi
Age: 24
Occupation or experience: Engineer at Openbravo
Education: Industrial engineering in Tecnun, University of Navarra
Location: Pamplona, Spain

Quote about SourceForge.net?

Galder: Not bad, but three issues to improve:

  • The connection is frequently too slow.
  • When you surf to a forum post from a URL, you cannot change the view to see all the thread.
  • It is not possible to get statistics from the database.

Jordi: SourceForge.net is the fastest way to get your project exposed to hundreds of users and developers. It gives you all the collaboration tools that you need with an integrated environment.

Why did you place the project on SourceForge.net?

Isma: Sourceforge.net is by far the most popular open source project repository. Just being on SourceForge.net — if your project is good enough — is an effective way to become popular. SourceForge.net gives us for free and without any effort a set of tools to manage our project: forums, trackers, Subversion space, downloads mechanism, etc.

The number one benefit of using SourceForge.net is:

Juan Pablo: Integrated services, large community exposure.

Jordi: A single user interface for all services, huge exposure, and a good statistics system about our project’s activity.

Description of project

Web based ERP for SMEs, built on proven MVC & MDD framework that facilitate customization & maintenance of code. Already in production, it encompasses a broad range of functionalities such as finance, supply chain, project mgmt, manufacturing & much more

Trove info

  • Database Environment: Oracle, PostgreSQL (pgsql)
  • Development Status: 5 – Production/Stable
  • Intended Audience: Developers, End Users/Desktop, Customer Service, Financial and Insurance Industry, Information Technology, Manufacturing
  • License: Mozilla Public License 1.1 (MPL 1.1)
  • Operating System: OS Independent (Written in an interpreted language)
  • Programming Language: Java, JavaScript, PL/SQL
  • Topic: CRM, ERP, Accounting, Point-Of-Sale, Project Management, Code Generators
  • Translations: Chinese (Simplified), English, Italian, Spanish
  • User Interface: Web-based

How would you describe Openbravo?

Paolo: Openbravo is the leading open source enterprise management system (ERP), developed by the company of the same name. It is a complete information system that companies can rely on to manage their daily operations and optimize all their business processes, including procurement, warehouse management, production, project and service management, sales management, and finance.

What makes Openbravo unique is its architecture. First, the product is built using a Model Driven Development approach, where the application is defined in terms of meta-data rather than code; this enables customers to easily adapt the product to their needs by extending the core product or defining new modules without any programming. Second, the product is entirely Web-based, which allows end users to access their information systems using only a standard Web browser. This minimizes the deployment cost and makes it possible to use the system over a variety of network configurations, ranging from high speed LANs to high latency, low bandwidth WANs.

Why and how did you get started?

Juan Pablo: I joined the project in August 2006 to work on my university project. Afterwards I became part of the engineering team. My primary motivation is the thrill of contributing to something that other people like, use, and help to improve.

Jordi: I started to contribute to Openbravo during the summer of 2006. I joined the company in October 2006.

Gorka Ion: During 2004 I started my university project doing the analysis for a new manufacturing module. After that I ended up developing the whole module, and I’ve been in Openbravo since then. Nowadays as a part of the engineering team after a short stay in consulting.

What is the software’s intended audience?

Paolo: The software is designed explicitly for small and medium enterprises who need a robust system to manage the flow of information within their business. In many cases, the users of Openbravo are companies that are venturing into an ERP implementation for the first time. In other cases, they are companies that have been disappointed with the high cost and high risk of the commercial ERP solutions and are looking for a better value proposition.

How many people do you believe are using your software?

Isma: We don’t know. We have had more than 200,000 downloads, and each installation can be used by many people, so I’d guess there are thousands of people using Openbravo. Soon we plan to launch a registration program to be able to properly answer this question.

What are a couple of notable examples of how people are using your software?

Isma: The two more notable examples of how people are using Openbravo ERP are a manufacturing company in the industrial sector with 15 distributed sites (headquarters and 14 production centers) and a distributor of frozen and cooled products, both located in Spain. But in a few weeks both will be surpassed by three ongoing projects led by our Consulting unit.

What gave you an indication that your project was becoming successful?

Juan Pablo: It is a bit too early to talk about success, but the evolution of the product as well as the steady growth in the number of contributions and downloads indicates it may become successful.

Isma: The first indication that we were doing well was the high satisfaction of our customer in the early stages before we published our product. But the fact that gave us certainty that we were being successful was the community response after we published: in a few months we were ranked #1 at SourceForge.net, and we have been in the top 10 projects since then. Downloads increase every month, and activity in forums and partnerships also grow continuously.

What has been your biggest surprise?

Paolo: My background is with large commercial ERP development. I was surprised to see how effective a small open source organization can be in building a high-quality, feature-rich enterprise information system.

Galder: How complex it is to grow properly: add product functionality, build departments, staff, infrastructure, etc. And sometimes doing things you need right now, despite knowing they will have to be undone soon.

Why do you think your project has been so well received?

Paolo: The demand for open source ERP solutions is humongous and growing at a fast pace. Free software is now mature and a viable alternative to commercial products for the enterprise. There are today established open source solutions at all levels of the technology stack, ranging from operating systems, to databases, to mid-tier, to CRM. ERP is at the very top of that stack, and it is the next frontier.

Jordi: Many people are looking for a Web-based open source ERP. We get very positive comments on product and its architecture. Soon we’ll start an effort with our community to adapt it to different countries and develop more documentation for it.

Where do you see your project going?

Isma: From the beginning we saw Openbravo as the reference open source ERP solution. We believe that open source will change the ERP space because it will solve its main challenges: removing vendor lock-in, and standardizing how an ERP is built, based on open technologies and integrated with other apps. We see Openbravo leading that movement.

What’s on your project wish list?

Paolo: In the short term, we would like to improve the modularity of our project so that community members could more easily develop value-added modules that can be deployed with Openbravo. We also intend to improve the ease of deployment and ease of use of the product to lower the barrier of entry even further and make sure that our users have a successful experience from day one.

In the long term, our goal is to develop the best ERP solution both in the open source and commercial space:

  • Best architecture, to attract the contribution of the best engineering talent
  • Most productive development tools, to maximize the productivity of the community
  • Most complete functional footprint, to satisfy the most demanding users
  • Most pleasing and productive user interface, to delight our end users
  • Most complete global coverage, to foster adoption everywhere
  • Lowest cost of ownership, to fulfill the promise of open source.

What are you most proud of?

Jordi: I’m proud that a small Pamplona-based company with no previous experience in delivering open source products has had success in doing it so, creating a network of partners and a community that helps us to make our product better every day.

Isma:

  • We are proud to lead the open source movement in the ERP space.
  • We are proud of our best-in-class team, which will allow us to overcome the challenges we have.
  • We are proud of our incredibly helpful community.
  • We are proud of our innovative product with MDA and MVC architectures.
  • We are proud to have been loyal to our dreams when nobody believed it could happen.

If you could change something about the project, what would it be?

Juan Pablo: Concurrency control. This is a planned feature for the 3.x branch.

Jordi: Take the application logic out of database and code it using Java classes. That’s something we will do at some point.

How do you coordinate the project?

Isma: We mainly use SourceForge.net trackers. There is a full description of how we manage the process on our wiki. We also use the wiki for shared documentation.

Paolo: We are a fast-growing project and we are adapting our project management practices as the community grows. At the moment, we go through rapid development iterations. Feature requests are tracked as to-dos in SourceForge.net and are then scheduled for implementation in a particular iteration. Each to-do is then assigned to a developer (or group of developers) who can execute it in relative autonomy working on a private Subversion branch. When the assignment is completed, the branch is merged in the trunk for integration.

Because the iterations are fast, although development is decentralized, the system never diverges too much and always remains stable.

What is your development environment like?

Juan Pablo: A Core 2 Duo laptop with 2GB RAM running Gentoo Linux, Sun-JDK, Ant, Tomcat, wmii, p9p, screen, urxvt, and Vim.

Galder: Gentoo, Oracle XE, Vim, Sqldeveloper and of course Tomcat, Ant, and Java. I use IRSSI as an IRC client.

Milestones:

  • August 2001: Tecnicia (today known as Openbravo) is funded and the project is started
  • January 2006: Tecnicia is renamed to Openbravo, with the objective to open ERP’s future.
  • April 2006: Openbravo’s code is published on SourceForge.net and immediately becomes one of the most active projects on the site.
  • December 2006: Openbravo becomes a funding member of the Open Solution Alliance.
  • March 2007: Red Herring selects Openbravo as a winner of the Red Herring 100 Europe Award 2007, given to the top 100 private technology company in EMEA.
  • June 2007: Openbravo reaches the 200,000 downloads mark, with more than 1,000 downloads a day.
  • July 2007: Openbravo unveils its second-generation Web interface.
  • August 2007: Openbravo wins LinuxWorld.com 2007 Product Excellence Award.

More details are available on the project Web site. Our future plans are published as part of our road map.

How can others contribute?

Jordi: People can contribute by helping other users and answering questions in our SourceForge.net forums, localizing Openbravo for other countries, creating documentation or tutorials for it, reporting bugs and bug fixes, and developing new functionality for the products or plugins and verticals. Since we are an open source project, people can get involved in every area of the product.


Check out our previous projects of the month.