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Compiere: on the road to resurgence

In a conversation with Don Klaiss, new CEO of Compiere, I gained a new appreciation for Compiere, one of the veterans of the open-source world.

Compiere has been in serious upgrade mode lately. It has been tweaking its business model, changing its management team (and adding an experienced CEO in enterprise software), and improving its community focus. I admit that I've been thinking that Compiere had missed its window of opportunity, but it feels like the company is on the right track.

Don Klaiss, the new CEO, and I talked by phone today. Don was senior vice president of Applications at Oracle prior to joining Compiere and, ironically, Jorg Janke used to work under him at Oracle. I asked Don a few questions about Compiere's prospects and positioning....

How can open source compete in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) market? Specialized rules, processes, etc.: all of these characteristics of the market are seemingly against you. Once a big company is into SAP or Oracle, aren't they in forever?

The opportunity today for us is not the Fortune 100. It's those that have never implemented ERP, or who are stuck with old ERP technology ERP. Or those that are outgrowing accounting software as their needs look more like ERP and less like QuickBooks, for example. There are a lot of companies paying maintenance on old, tired products. Consolidation in the industry has left customers with fewer choices, and not necessarily any better, more innovative choices. Compiere gives them a better choice.

How do you differentiate against larger (but older technology) competitors?

In a few different ways:

  1. Mid-market focus (Small-to-medium sized enterprises, or SMEs). It's very hard to retrofit old technology onto this kind of customer. However, it's not exclusively about SMEs, but also about servicing department-level deployments within larger companies.

  2. ERP made easier and more flexible. Compiere makes ERP easier to buy, integrate, extend, etc. Part of this derives from our model-based architecture (everything is data-driven with a lean architecture), and part of it derives from our being open source.

  3. Open-source licensing model. We make our software free to use, and then ask the customer to pay for value (such as training, support subscriptions, etc.) that we provide beyond the code.

  4. Software as a service. Compiere was architected for multi-tenancy, for hosting. This is very different from SAP and Oracle trying to go downmarket with their bloated applications in a hosted manner. It's simply not credible. We think the hosted model is interesting, but it's not even remotely interesting to consider their 1970s era applications being foisted onto the mid-market.
Ultimately, we bring modern technology to an antiquated market. We have strong, tangible value that customers will (and do) pay for. We don't compete with open-source projects. We compete with the big vendors in a segment of the market that they are ill-equipped to serve.

Where do you stand on GPLv3?

Compiere is considering GPLv3 for its 3.0 release in the fall. But today it's GPLv2. No commitments or decisions either way yet.

Again, I feel comfortable that Compiere is sorting out the problems that led to the defection of te ADempiere developers, and that will be a boon to its top and bottom lines. Don doesn't strike me as someone that is trying to force-feed the Old World of software onto open source. He's been talking with every CEO of an open-source company that he can find, and seems to be digesting it well.

Compiere is back on the radar screen. Welcome back.