Commercial Open Source growth stakes claim as best model

Open source is changing the world and has resources to prove it

Unlike the venerable groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, my bullish prognostication for 2013 that “commercial open source is simply a better model and is at its inflection point for growth” is bearing fruit. Big business and governments around the world agree. Case in point, “City of Munich stands by its calculation: open source saves millions.”

"The City of Munich stands by its November 2012 cost estimates, which concluded that using free and open source software for desktops and office productivity for its 15,500 PCs is over 11 million euro cheaper, compared to the ubiquitous proprietary alternative. "There is no reason to correct this information", the city's IT department comments on 11 February to claims to the contrary."

"Writing on its web site, the IT department for the second time refutes claims made in a report for the vendor of the proprietary software. Following furore (sic) in the IT trade press over remarks by the author of the unpublished report, alleging that the switch had cost the city millions of euro, the firm in late January made available a summary."

Microsoft recently railed against OpenOffice — the free and open source software unnamed in the article above. Microsoft just doesn't get “it” — not surprising as their lack of innovation velocity and meager success in mobile, cloud and other areas is well documented. I don't think they expected Munich's first or second responses above. It is interesting that Apache’s OpenOffice didn't have to respond to the dispute. The City of Munich issued the strong and clear statement to the world verifying their massive savings by deploying open source software.

I’m closely following the progress of open source solutions as they are recognized around the world. Tremendous open source growth continues with commercial open source companies like @xTuple (PostBooks® ERP, CRM, Accounting), @ProjectLibre (Project Management replacement for Microsoft Project), @SugarCRM and other successful open source solutions for business.

PostBooks®, for example, was voted SourceForge's “Project of the Month (POTM)” in March. With over 4,000,000 downloads a day from’s categories (ranging from gaming to science to development software), this is an amazing feat for a business / financial management software. Rallying the open source community to vote for an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution as POTM speaks volumes about xTuple and also the maturing of open source business alternatives. Preceding xTuple by a few months, ProjectLibre was also recognized as POTM, and SugarCRM is shaking up the customer relationship management heretofore “” marketplace.

Why all the success now? With PostBooks®, it is a confluence of factors.

  1. xTuple, the company, is growing rapidly (over 50% last year), innovating customer-driven enhancements at break-neck speed, and the community of users is promoting PostBooks as the best choice for business.
  2. Abandoned by their vendors, there is a figurative tombstone-filled ERP Graveyard of legacy solutions no longer supported by the “mother ship” with customers flailing.
  3. 'End of life' pronouncements are couched in term-limited support (and upgrades) ah, the screeching halt to innovation! Consolidations and private equity moves in the market have left some vendors with dozens of offerings, and the very idea they could be innovation leaders on so many different branches is farcical

Contrast the stagnation of proprietary vendors with a commercial open source company such as xTuple — with over 1,000,000 downloads of PostBooks around the world. The source code is free and open, with innovation coming from the community as well as the commercial sponsor, xTuple. Open source customers benefit from the rapid innovation and also the stability of community-monitored software development. Examples of xTuple ERP innovation driven by success with the commercial open source model, also extremely beneficial to users, include:

  • B2C (Business-to-Consumer) storefront, this is coming soon and will empower companies with a Web presence for selling their products direct to consumer, fully integrated to their back-end inventory, accounting and manufacturing;
  • B2B (Business-to-Business) module, allows selling partners to enter orders directly online, saving time, resources and money while increasing inventory accuracy and a company’s effective hours of operation to 24/7;
  • Mobile Web modules, demonstrated at Macworld 2013 on a Mac laptop, while simultaneously working on an iPad, iPhone and my Samsung S III. I did look a bit odd with a Samsung at Macworld, but it reinforced the Mobile Web benefits of xTuple innovation!

The good news in commercial open source continues.

ProjectLibre's replacement of Microsoft Project is now actively used in nearly 200 countries. With such a thriving global ecosystem, it is effectively only countries such as North Korea that are not currently using ProjectLibre. Making great strides in the CRM software-as-a-service (SaaS) space, SugarCRM replaced Siebel at IBM. (WOW, a big win and congratulations to Larry, Chuck and the team at SugarCRM!)

The benefits are not simply for the open source vendors. The community of users benefits from the velocity of innovation. I almost never mention the tremendous cost benefits of open source software, because there are so many other areas on which to focus.

Open source as a movement is accelerating on multiple fronts and clearly has “legs.” Innovation solution leaders such as xTuple, ProjectLibre and SugarCRM will continue to take market share from the proprietary vendors. Our collective model is built for longstanding innovation and stability.

The 'other' model with enterprise sales was always based on a quarter-ending morphine “hit” to make the company’s revenue numbers work. If they missed those revenue numbers, the ax would come down and innovation and support would be negatively affected. The community and customers were always forced to take a back seat to that addiction.

In the commercial open source model, the community and vendors equally benefit from the alignment of our mutual interests. Jump on the open source bandwagon and experience the long-term benefits and security!

Marc O'Brien

Business Development at xTuple, December 2012 – December 2013

With a long, distinguished history in the software marketplace, Marc joined xTuple in December 2012 from Acquia (, where he served as vice president and general manager for social software and Drupal applications. His rookie years were spent with Texas Instruments running the Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) department before he jumped into mainframe sales with MRO Software (Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul), Inc. — formerly known as PSDI — which published Maximo, an Enterprise Asset Management system, since acquired by IBM. Marc also led North American Sales for the Scitor Corporation, then founded WebProject, the first Internet-based team application. He then co-founded cloud and open source technology company, Projity, which was acquired in 2008 by Serena Software. The company’s open source alternative to Microsoft Project, OpenProj (now ProjectLibre, has been downloaded over four million times in nearly 200 countries, and Marc continues as project lead for ProjectLibre. Marc holds a B.S. in Engineering and Management from New York’s independent technology-focused Clarkson University. He is based in Silicon Valley, California.