Open-source CRM and ERP: New kids on the cloud

Users report significant ROI

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IT also needs check with cloud providers regarding any the limitations of the caching and self-provisioning capabilities, to find out if there's any limit on the number of servers they will make available or that they will allow customers to provision. Most cloud vendors do not provide availability assurances, Forrester says, and service-level agreements are mostly nonexistent. That means a company whose applications are in the cloud has little or no assurance that its provider will still be in business a year from now.

Industry observers are heartened by the fact that some big-name vendors have moved into cloud computing, including Amazon Web Services, Salesforce.com and Akamai. Regardless, it is critical to ask a provider how you can access your data in the event that it goes out of business or is acquired, as well as what happens to the data in the event of a disaster.

But for smaller companies and startups that don't have massive IT investments to manage, the approach holds great appeal. Jerry Skaare, president of O-So-Pure, a maker of ultraviolet water purification systems in Phoenix, says he is "very comfortable with open source as a technology delivery system or application creation system to supply the needs of my company. There was a longstanding argument that with open source you don't have control and someone's going to insert something into [the code], and I think those arguments are long dead."

Full-scale, cost-effective ERP

As a former managing director of IT, Skaare found open-source ERP in a cloud model to be an added bonus. He says when he acquired the company less than a year ago there were very few processes that were automated.

Jerry Skaare
Jerry Skaare, president of O-So-Pure, a maker of ultraviolet water purification systems, says he's saving $75,000 each year by not having to devote a full-time staffer to tasks now done by cloud-based software.

"It seemed to me that a full-scale ERP system would serve us well, especially in these times of trying to keep costs down,'' says Skaare. He spent 28 years in IT before buying his current company, with experience in JBoss and Apache during a job at a large hotel chain. Now, with no IT staff, no data center, and a desire to focus on the other aspects of the business, Skaare says there was no question he would go the hosted route. As the company grows, Skaare says he'll have the ability to provision additional servers, "and it's practically a five-minute exercise."

Skaare heard about Compiere Cloud Edition, from Compiere, Inc., of Redwood Shores, Calif., which offers both multi-tenant and single private hosted versions of its ERP software on the Amazon EC2 Cloud virtual environment. Now, O-So-Pure is using the ERP software in the single, private instance as opposed to the multi-tenant model, giving Skaare the ability to make modifications. "It's as if the product was on site . . . but all the hardware, storage, application and memory requirements are sitting on the cloud and it's totally transparent."

He says he liked "the breadth of [Compiere's] developer community and the number of years the project had been underway." He came away convinced that "the little idiosyncrasies of my company" could be accommodated as a result.

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