Potential issues associated with ERP OpenSource use in the cloud
Cloud ERP premised systems, based on 'Open Source' technology; or technology and code which is usually 'free', supported by a community, with open APIs, would seem to offer many advantages. If the platform is real, being used, and already has been built around a Web Services architecture, it stands to reason that it should be cheaper, robust enough and vendor neutral. Not being locked in to one vendor is a Holy Grail among Cloud users. However, the reality of Open Source can be quite different than the marketing suggests.
In the real world, the seemingly ‘free’ software platform will of course cost money. It is quite common knowledge that Open Source ERP systems will most likely contain bugs and poorly written modules which can lead to data being lost, or the system not performing as advertised. Here is the general list of potential difficulties one finds with Open Source Cloud ERP platforms:
- the code quality can oftentimes be dubious and not maintained by the Open Source platform or community; you will need to find ways to fix the issues;
- there may not be enough qualified experts who know the platform, its code and underlying architecture, which will herald future problems;
- the system simply does not work, or does not match your business process and needs to be customized, and no one is available to help;
- security, malware, malicious intermediaries and other security problems can emanate from the Open Source platform;
- the basic platform may not include some of the most important modules for a business which wants to put its ERP processes into the Cloud;
- you will have to integrate the Open Source to your legacy systems, and likely build new modules – how can this be done, by whom and how will you integrate into the APIs of a system you don't understand ?;
- your firm will be responsible for understanding the Open Source platform and overcoming issues around redundancy, reliability and availability; in other words you are now entering into Cloud Technology as a business focus;
If you want to try an Open Source ERP-Cloud solution.....
Here are some issues to consider:
- understand very clearly what your Cloud requirements are; what modules do you want to migrate to the Cloud; how will you migrate them?;
- are the internal ERP modules written for Web Services and the Cloud, or do they need rewriting?; if so in what language and do you have the internal skills to do it ?;
- how will you integrate the Cloud into your legacy ERP [most Cloud systems are hybrids] ?;
- Reasonable time-frame; budget, end user training and a list of potential problems for using the system during the next few years;
- Does your Open Source Cloud platform scale, is it elastic, how do you back up data, and create fault tolerance ?;
- Are there vendors who can help with your Open Source choice ?
Open Source ERPs for the Cloud are a possible solution for some firms, perhaps those who have no legacy ERP systems to worry about, or to migrate. However, most larger firms have something in house which manages their business process. If this is true, than you are better off migrating your own code and modules to the Cloud and then linking back using secure layers, to the non-Cloud premised and still usable, ERP system internally. For firms with legacy investments in ERP systems, it usually does not make a lot of sense to move to another ERP Cloud platform, about which they will have little knowledge or control.