Open-source applications find takers

Singapore systems integrator iZeno sees opportunity for open-source business software, even as others dismiss open-source software as "immature".
Written by Jeanne Lim, Contributor

Open-source business applications are stable and ready for deployment, says a Singapore-based systems integrator, amid industry criticism that they are not mature enough for the enterprise environment.

iZeno's senior consultant, Benny Ng, told ZDNet Asia that the company has helped its clients implement Compiere's open-source ERP solution, and even customized modules for vertical industries. The systems integrator specializes in implementing open-source ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications, specifically from Compiere, for organizations across various industry segments.

However, SAP's executive vice president of marketing, Peter Graf, last month said that rival open-source business applications will not be mature enough to survive the wave of consolidation crashing across the tech industry.

According to Alan Tong, IDC's Asia-Pacific research manager of enterprise applications research, there are no concrete statistics on the adoption rate of open-source business applications in the region. But he said that the deployment of open-source ERP products remains in an "immature state" across this part of the globe.

Tong explained that one of the reasons why enterprises have been reluctant to do so is a lack of knowledge and understanding of the technology. Despite the low cost of open-source software, he added, enterprises may not want to risk exposing their operations on a technology that they have little or no knowledge about.

Technology support such as deployment, customization and maintenance, also remains scarce and the acquisition cost of professionals skilled in open source, can be relatively high compared to other commercial proprietary software, Tong said.

Such assertions have been refuted by executives from open-source software vendors such as SugarCRM and Compiere. And some Asian companies have already embraced the technology.

According to Ng, iZeno's customer base consists mostly of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with revenue ranging from S$5 million (US$3.1 million) to S$100 million (US$61.8 million). They include steel processing company MaxSteel Enterprise, and electronics engineering and logistics company Gennex Solutions.

iZeno also has a few clients in China, Ng said, and added that the company has "received enquiries" from some companies in the Middle East as well.

Singapore's Gennex had implemented "extended versions" of Compiere's open-source ERP application to automate its sales, procurement, inventory, and finance processes, he said.

"We are also currently rolling out an extended version of open-source ERP for a prominent communications service provider in Singapore," he revealed, but declined to name the customer.

Ng said companies choose open-source software, over proprietary software from more established vendors, for a number of reasons.

First, the availability of source codes "greatly empowers" the consulting company to carry out extensive customization and development of new and specific functions that are required by clients.

"Open-source ERP deployment also gives companies that have in-house IT capabilities, the option to maintain and own the solution," he said.

He estimated that companies could save 30 to 50 percent of the total cost of traditional ERP deployments when they choose to implement open-source ERP software.

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