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2009 the year for open-source ERP?

The tough global economy may finally offer vendors of open-source software for enterprise resource planning the chance to demonstrate their value.

While open source has made its mark in just about every product segment within enterprise software, ERP (enterprise resource planning) has remained firmly proprietary. As CIO.com's Thomas Wailgum suggests, however, the time may be ripe for change.

The reason? Years of empty promises and overloaded invoices from the incumbent ERP vendors may finally ring hollow in a global recession:

Does a massive, 18-month, multimillion-dollar ERP rollout, with the odds of implementation and user acceptance stacked against you and 22 percent annual maintenance costs to boot, seem appropriate now?

ERP industry guru Vinnie Mirchandani likes to say that there are too many "empty calories" in ERP spend, especially in SAP and Oracle maintenance fees. Now is clearly not the time to be ordering up large portions of highly caloric ERP software rollouts.

Just as the economy is proving to be Google's toughest competitor and the biggest reason to innovate, so, too, may the economy be chief information officers' biggest reason to get out of the "no one ever got fired for spending way too much on bloated ERP" mindset and shift spending to software as a service and open-source ERP.

Openbravo, Compiere, and other open-source solutions have been around for several years, and they are surprisingly robust and feature-rich. 2009, with all its financial challenges, may well be the opportune time for CIOs to kick the tires on these alternative solutions.

Disclosure: I am an advisor to Openbravo, an open-source ERP vendor.