xTuple xChange, Add on to Your ERP




In a call yesterday with xTuple's Ned Lilly, we had a chance to catch up on the open source ERP vendor's current business. I wanted to say a word about the company's recently launched xChange online store, which I think is a smart way for an open source enterprise software vendor to provide clients convenient access to community and partner innovations. It may also be a cost-effective means for acquiring specific ERP-related functionality and services as needed. 

In the free and open source software world, it's not exactly uncommon to see projects offer a place to download add-ons and easily modify or extend an application's functionality. Many FOSS applications are designed in a modular way to enable lots of people to easily innovate and add functionality without necessarily touching the core of the application. This makes it possible to update releases while minimizing compatibility issues that may arise from customizations.

The xTuple xChange store seems to promote this model in a commercial environment. I don't believe I've seen much from other ERP vendors to promote similar opportunities. The xChange store enables not only xTuple's partners but also participants in its community to contribute add-ons and extensions. Organizations using xTuple can download these add-ons and extensions to plug into their existing systems. Some are free (for example a number of report definitions are listed at no cost), others cost a fee (a point-of-sale module, for example).

According to Ned, incorporating many of these additions to a PostBooks or other xTuple system is relatively easy. He compared it to working with packages like apt or rpm on most Linux systems. Anyone familiar with those package managers knows it's generally quite easy to install or upgrade applications. What I found interesting is that in some cases, items purchased from the xChange store come with support, maintenance, and testing. For example, if you need a wireless bar coding solution for your warehouse you can purchase that add-on in the xChange store and you're not left on your own to implement it. Rather, you get the partner company's support setting up the business logic and testing that it works properly.

Finally, xTuple does review what goes in its xChange so that ought to help reassure people that the items listed are applicable for their system. It remains to be seen whether xTuple will be any good at generating controversy the way Apple does when rejecting apps in its store. Then again, I don't suppose many people will develop a baby shaker application for an ERP system.

A lot has happened since the interview I published with Ned in 2004 (note: xTuple was named OpenMFG at that time). We'll be publishing an open source ERP report in the not-too-distant future with more detail about the xTuple systems among others. In the meantime, check out the extremely detailed piece that my colleague PJ wrote not too long ago.

Finally, let me just note that the company's grown. 2008 profits up 250% over 2007. It has three easily differentiated product offerings (the free PostBooks edition, as well as standard and manufacturing editions for companies that need a different breadth of functionality). xTuple now counts over 260,000 downloads, more than 150 customers, and the size of those customers is really increasing.
 
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