xTuple Opens an Online Store for ERP Extensions
June 16, 2009 Alex Woodie
xTuple this month opened an online store aimed at making it easier for partners and users to buy and sell add-on products that work with its open source ERP software suite. If it attracts just a fraction of the Internet traffic enjoyed by Apple and its consumer-focused AppStore, xTuple’s new e-commerce Web site, called the xChange, will be a huge hit, and could encourage other enterprise software vendors to follow suit.
xTuple (formerly OpenMFG) is one of a handful of companies trying to make a living making and selling ERP software under the new “commercial open source” development and delivery paradigm. Thousands of organizations have downloaded the free and completely open source version of the xTuple ERP product, while more than 100 organizations (including some AS/400 shops running xTuple in Linux partitions) pay xTuple for the right to use more sophisticated versions of the software, including Standard Edition and Manufacturing Edition.
Now, with the xChange store (www.xtuple.com/xchange), xTuple ERP customers have a convenient place to browse and buy potential add-ons that extend their ERP environment.
Currently, there are more than 20 products available on the xChange, developed by xTuple and the company’s business partners. Early additions to the store include xtbatch, a batch manager product that helps to automate jobs in the ERP environment (price: $1,995); xtpos, a point of sale (POS) package that provides electronic cash register functionality ($995); and a wireless bar coding package from partner Yellow Dog Consulting ($500). Numerous reports are also available.
Users will also find several interfaces that extend xTuple to popular products, such as Google maps, the Drupal open source content management system, the osCommerce open source shopping cart software, and Yahoo Merchant Solutions Websites.
The xChange is a culmination of several years work and reflects xTuple’s core values, including flexibility, transparency, and giving customers choice in how they consume business software and services, says xTuple CEO Ned Lilly. It also follows the bread crumbs set by Apple with its AppStore, he says.
“More than anything else, we’re responding to strong demand by paying customers and the larger open source community, that they really are starting to see xTuple ERP as a platform,” Lilly says in an interview. “And with any good platform, there ought to be point solutions that you can deploy and make available for free, as well as paid downloads and third-party commercial add-ons.”
Lilly doesn’t hide his disdain for the business practices of traditional, closed-source ERP software vendors. The CEO, who also runs www.erpgraveyard.com, says ERP vendors give customers too little in return for their maintenance dollar, provide too little transparency into product roadmaps, and spend too much time putting together exotic debt instruments and bank deals.
Meanwhile, instead of waiting for their vendors to respond to requests, ERP customers put themselves at risk by making their own modifications, increasing the chance that future changes will have unintended affects on the overall stability of the program, and complicating future upgrades and migrations.
The open source development process–where users are encouraged to contribute modifications back into the product core, thereby enabling others to benefit from them–works to mitigate this risk by allowing people to share solutions they have developed for common business problems.
The xChange store also helps to accomplish this goal. All products featured on the store have been checked by xTuple for compatibility with the ERP system (expect paid products to receive more rigorous testing than free products, however). It also works as informal advertising for the partners involved.
xTuple has shown itself to be at the forefront of the evolution of the business software distribution model. Instead of closed source products, the source code for the core product is available on the Internet. Instead of closely guarded price lists, the vendor posts its pricing on its Web site. Now, with the xChange, customers gain a greater capability to pick and choose from an assortment of ERP items, instead of being forced to buy products that they might not need.
With online stores popping up all over the place (like Sun Microsystems’ upcoming Java Store), it’s likely only a matter of time before more business application vendors follow suit and open stores of their own.
“People are starting to think of software as ‘Let me order off the menu. I’d like to try this, this, and this, and see how they work together,'” Lilly says. “It definitely makes it easier to try something on for size.”