Top 10 Enterprise Open Source Software

This isn’t really a Top 10. There are only seven, but also because these software applications are largely independent and a solution could use several. But now that you’re here… 😉

Open source is about a community rallying around a common software solution to a shared problem, and volunteering effort (e.g. writing code, writing web pages to help others, moderating or helping others in a forum, testing code, fixing bugs…) in return for the benefits they derive. There may be a primary commercial entity involved that monetizes some aspect of the software, or not. Every community is different, because the itch they scratch is different.

That being said, these applications should be of interest to any technically-oriented business process manager. They solve general problems, such as financial transactions, inventory management, controlled document sharing, issue reporting and corrective action processes, effectively progressing leads to orders, managing production and supply chain, scheduling manufacturing builds, project reporting, etc. They each have parallels in commercial proprietary software, which gives a clearly identifiable cost benefit.

  • ERPNext is a fully featured web-based ERP system and leader in the era of postmodern ERP. As powerful as it is easy to use, ERPNext can be used stand-alone or to enhance the capabilities of an existing system. Commercial support is provided by ERPNext sponsor Frappe Technologies, who offer a variety of services, and by a strong network of independent consultants.
  • Nextcloud is the most deployed on-premises file share and collaboration platform for tens of millions of users at thousands of organizations across the globe. Commercial support is available from Nextcloud sponsor Nextcloud GmbH, who also provide certified compliance, and by a strong network of independent consultants. 
  • MantisBT was developed as a software bug tracker, but it also makes an effective enterprise issue management system. Immediate benefits are managing projects more effectively and collaborating efficiently over issues. Effective support is provided by the MantisBT community.
  • SuiteCRM is fully-featured Customer Relationship Management software. Starting life in 2004 as open source SugarCRM, SuiteCRM was created in 2015 in order to continue as an open source project. Commercial support is available from the SuiteCRM sponsor SalesAgility, and the thriving ecosystem includes many professional support options and development partners.
  • TimeTracker is an easy-to-host easy-to-use timesheet system for an entreprise starting to capture time-on-task for project management purposes. It can also generate invoices for consultants and contractors, notify workers and managers of incomplete assignment, and lock time entry after approval. TimeTracker is supported by its creator and primary developer, and by an active community.
  • ProjeQtOr is open source enterprise project management software. The name is an acronym for Quality based Project Organizer, to reference a strong quality management philosophy which includes indicators, alerts and defined workflow. ProjeQtOr will be of particular interest to those familiar with commercial portfolio project management software. Support is available from the developer through a variety of commercial services, and also from a strong user community. 
  • webERP is the original web-based open-source ERP software for web-based small business accounting. Founded in 2001 by a New Zealand accountant, webERP has proven to be especially suitable for small businesses with slow internet connections, and is supported by a network of independent consultants and contractors.

These programs are available for guided demonstration on dalescott.net. Please request a demo using the contact form.

New ERPNext v11 Update

Congratulations to the ERPNext team and entire community on the latest v11 update. I’m eager to upgrade the Swift Construction Company demo site to check it out.

Open source software does not come without cost, but so does making do with an antiquated proprietary ERP, using fragile workarounds for modules that couldn’t be included in the license, and needing to use multiple systems due to non-integrated workflows. The question is which cost will return the greatest benefit.

Install ERPNext on FreeBSD 11.2 using VirtualBox

Search for other ERPNext-related posts. You may also visit the demo on dalescott.net.

The simplest way to “install” ERPNext on FreeBSD is to simply use the Virtual Image provided by the ERPNext project with VirtualBox.

The ERPNext project provides the Easy Install script for bare-metal installation but it has a number of Linux dependencies and will not work without changes on FreeBSD. Happily, the project also provides a fully configured virtual machine (based on Ubuntu Linux).

It may also be possible to use bhyve, the BSD hypervisor, with the virtual image, but the OVF file must first be converted to bhyve’s raw format.

Install VirtualBox

Install the virtualbox-ose-nox11 package for running headless virtual machines.

% sudo pkg install virtualbox-ose-nox11

The VirtualBox kernel module (virtualbox-ose-kmod) will also be installed, but it must be re-compiled from source and re-installed (at the very least, the system will crash when next re-booted once it has been configured to load the kernel module at boot). 

Update the ports collection to prepare for compiling the kernel module. 

# portsnap fetch update

If the ports collection has not been installed, install.

# portsnap fetch extract

The FreeBSD sources are required to compile the kernel module. If not already installed, install the FreeBSD sources.

% fetch ftp://ftp.freebsd.org/pub/FreeBSD/releases/amd64/11.2-RELEASE/src.txz % tar -C / -xzvf src.txz

Compile and install the virtualbox-ose-kmod port. Make will first refuse to install the module because it is already installed (recall it was installed by being a dependency of virtualbox-ose-nox11). De-install the virtualbox-ose-kmod package, then re-install the newly compiled version.

% cd /usr/ports/emulators/virtualbox-ose-kmod
% sudo make
% sudo make install
% sudo make deinstall
% sudo make reinstall

Perform post-install configuration.

1) edit /boot/loader.conf to load the vboxdrv kernel module at boot,

# vi /boot/loader.conf
...
vboxdrv_load="YES"

2) increase AIO limits by editing /etc/sysctl.conf (my server is using AIO, for more information refer to the virtualbox-ose-nox11 pkg-message).

vfs.aio.max_buf_aio=8192
vfs.aio.max_aio_queue_per_proc=65536
vfs.aio.max_aio_per_proc=8192
vfs.aio.max_aio_queue=65536

Reboot the system to load the kernel module (or load it manually).

Make a mental note before doing an OS update to first edit /boot/loader.conf to not load the module. Otherwise the system will likely crash when next rebooted.

The user that VirtualBox runs as must be a member of the vboxusers group. For simplicity, I’ll run VirtualBox using my own username, although best practise would be to create a dedicated user.

# pw groupmod vboxusers -m dale

Edit /etc/rc.conf to run vboxwebsrv (the Virtual Box web interface daemon) using the provided startup script installed in /usr/local/etc/rc.d/

% sudo vi /etc/rc.conf

vboxwebsrv_enable="YES"
vboxwebsrv_user="dale"

and finally start the vboxwebsrv service.

% sudo service vboxwebsrv start
% sudo service vboxwebsrv status

The vboxmanage cli utility can be used to manage virtual machines but I will be using phpVirtualBox which provides a familiar GUI.

Install phpVirtualBox

phpVirtualBox can be installed from the FreeBSD ports collection but it currently has a dependency on PHP 7.1 while I have PHP 7.2. I installed phpVirtualBox manually to avoid pkg attempting to revert my PHP install to 7.1, and have not encountered any issues.

Download the latest release from the phpVirtualBox Github project . Follow the instructions in README.md file and on the wiki. Extract the project to /usr/local/www, and edit the configuration.

# vi /usr/local/www/phpvirtualbox/config.php

var $username = 'dale';
var $password = 'dale_login_password';

Configure the webserver to serve phpVirtualBox. I’m using the basic Apache 2.4 http server package. I added a virtual host definition to /usr/local/etc/apache24/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf to serve phpvirtualbox as a phpvirtualbox.dalescott.net.

<VirtualHost phpvirtualbox.dalescott.net>
  DocumentRoot "/usr/local/www/phpvirtualbox"
  <Directory "/usr/local/www/phpvirtualbox">
    allow from all
    Options None
    Require all granted
  </Directory>
</VirtualHost>

Change the default phpVirtualBox login password to something secure after logging in for the first time.

“Install” ERPNext

Download the desired ERPNext Virtual Machine image (*.ova).

% cd ~/downloads
% wget http://build.erpnext.com/ERPNext-Production.ova

Using phpVirtualBox, create a new vm by importing the downloaded ERPNext-Production.ova Virtual Image file (File/Import). The OVF includes port forwarding rules to forward client port 80 to host port 8080 (for serving ERPNext) and a rule to forward ssh from client port 22 to host port 3022 (for system administration).

Start the vm and then login to ERPNext from a browser (e.g. www.dalescott.net:8080) using the default credentials. The new site wizard will run and lead you through ERPNext configuration. Use a secure password when defining the initial (admin) user, and the wizard will delete the initial Administrator user (with default password) when complete. 

Once logged into ERPNext, setup email processing so that users will receive notifications outside of ERPNext. This will be valuable to understanding and appreciating ERPNext’s significant social aspect. You will also want to change the system login (i.e. ssh) password for “frappe” user to something secure (or disable password authentication entirely in favor of key-based authentication).

Cheers,
Dale

 

PLM using Parts&Vendors(TM)

Parts&VendorsTM was the seminal multi-user application in the late 90’s for embedded-electronics design teams to manage parts and assemblies. Running on Windows 98SE (originally), Parts&Vendors managed everything to do with embedded product development, including tracking parts, vendors, manufacturers, purchasing, supporting documents, and even rudimentary stock control for low-volume manufacturing. Teams worked efficiently with more cooperation, less bureaucracy, and at much lower cost, than possible with other solutions of the time.

Parts&Vendors was discontinued in January 2014, almost 15 years after it was released IMHO due to insurmountable technical debt. The Jet-type database did not handle clients crashing or high WAN latencies gracefully, and the codebase had not kept pace with Windows development practices.

Although no longer available, Parts&Vendors remains useful as a gold standard for evaluating PLM capabilities of ERP systems, such as ERPNext and webERP.

Parts&Vendors UX / UI 

Item Master Tab

Parts are accessed through the Item Master tab.

Item Details

Selecting a part provides detailed information on sources (vendors) as well as other useful information.

Files and URLs

Documents and web sites can be associated with a part,

making it easy to access local documents or a web page for reference.

Unfortunately PV did not include a document control user interface to keep things in order, or utilities to verify document paths or list parts referencing a particular file. The shared directory approach worked well for a small conscientious team, or one with a dedicated “librarian”, but not with a more “entrepreneurial” team (if you know what I mean <wink>).

Assemblies

A part may be grouped with others in an Assembly. You can easily tell what assemblies include a particular part in PV from the part’s Used On tab. 

It’s also easy to navigate from a part to a containing assembly, and back. This is also called traversing a product tree containing child parts and parent parts.

An assembly has a Parts List (aka Bill-of-Materials or BOM) that lists its child parts.

Purchasing

Parts can be easily ordered,

An order can accumulate parts until it is placed with a vendor, eventually resulting in a purchase Purchase Order (PO).

In a smaller organization, the engineering team often does the ordering themselves. In a larger organization, a “real” purchase order may need to be created in a separate parallel system (e.g. QuickBooks). The exact process will depend on an organization’s size, structure, and history.

Receiving

When the ordered parts arrive, the PO is retrieved and the order item marked received, 

which updates the stock on hand.

The assembly Parts List is one way to see when the parts necessary to build an assembly are in stock.

Manufacturing

Once all the child parts for an assembly are in stock, a “Kit List” is generated from the “Build” tab for manufacturing. Stock on hand can be reduced for the kitted items, and later increased for the finished assembly when completed. 

Customers

PV can also manage clients and client orders, although the functionality is not integrated with stock control and closing an order does not reduce quantity on hand of the ordered items. The functionality is understandable though given it was never a goal of PV to be a POS (Point Of Sale) or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. 

 

This completes a quick refresher of Parts&Vendors. In the next post I will compare ERPNext to Parts&Vendors.