Nonprofit vendor consortium the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) made good on its April promise to deliver a prototype demonstrating interoperability between open-source and proprietary business applications in time for LinuxWorld this week.
The organization is showing off its Common Customer View (CCV) interoperability prototype at LinuxWorld, taking place in San Francisco. "We hit our deadline," said Barry Klawans, OSA spokesperson, who's been leading the work on CCV. He's also chief technology officer at founding consortium member BI (business intelligence) software vendor JasperSoft.
The CCV brings together information held in different vendors' applications to make it possible, say, for new information about a customer entered in an ERP (enterprise resource planning) application to also automatically show up when users access their CRM (customer relationship management) software. The aim is to make it much easier for users to have a single company-wide view of interactions with their customers and their customers' buying behavior instead of such knowledge being tied up in stand-alone applications.
Formed in February, the OSA's main mission is to make it easier for users to mix and match applications like ERP, CRM and BI software. A common customer complaint about open-source software is that there's a lack of well-defined interoperability standards, making it hard to get different open-source components to both work with each other and with proprietary software.
The consortium currently has 22 members drawn mostly from the ranks of open-source software startups including Adaptive Planning, Centric CRM, EnterpriseDB, JasperSoft, Openbravo and Talend. The exception is long-time systems integrator Unisys. "The next hurdle of membership is to increase our footprint out of open solutions to platforms," Klawans said. "I'd love to see a Sun or an IBM join."
CCV will continue to act as a reference implementation for OSA's other interoperability work around areas like single sign-on for applications and a common look-and-feel to user interfaces and APIs (application programming interfaces). As OSA members have worked on CCV and talked with chief information officers at end-user organizations, they've also identified other interoperability challenges, according to Klawans. The consortium is planning to do work around management monitoring and configuration management of open-source applications, he said.
One thing the OSA doesn't want to become is a certification or standards body, Klawans said. As the consortium continues its work on interoperability, it's possible that it may consider bringing in a third-party organization to focus on interoperability certification or establishing interoperability standards, he added.
Any demo code that OSA produces will be made available under a license approved by nonprofit education and advocacy group the Open Source Initiative (OSI). It will be up to OSA members to determine which of the more than 50 OSI-approved licenses they want to use, Klawans said. "We've always tried not to take a firm stance on licensing and to let people choose," he added.
Recently, there's been plenty of debate within the open-source community about whether companies using licenses that haven't been approved by the OSI can really call themselves open-source companies. That topic has come up at the OSA, but the consortium believes there's room to explore a variety of business models and doesn't want to limit the scope of its membership. That's one of the reasons for its name -- the Open Solutions Alliance, not the Open Source Alliance -- Klawans said.