Open-source group takes first interoperability steps

Nonprofit consortium the Open Solutions Alliance has issued an interoperability roadmap and named its first major project -- a Common Customer View

Nonprofit consortium the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) has begun making moves to increase businesses' use of open-source software.

The industry group Wednesday issued an interoperability roadmap and announced its first major project -- the Common Customer View prototype.

Formed in February, OSA has 12 members -- Adaptive Planning, Centric CRM, CollabNet, EnterpriseDB Corp., GroundWork Open Source, Hyperic, JasperSoft, Openbravo, SourceForge.net, SpikeSource, Talend and Unisys. The consortium expects to announce new members within a week, according to Anthony Gold, OSA board member and vice president and general manager of open-source business at Unisys.

There's a lack of well-defined interoperability standards in the open-source business software arena, which can deter companies from adopting the technology. Trying to get different open-source components to work together without such standards is hard work for users.

After discussions with end-user chief information officers and other IT staff as well as systems integrators, OSA members created the interoperability roadmap to show the particular interoperability problems the consortium plans to tackle and to provide a timeline for work on the issues, Gold said. The end result for each issue will be a document describing standards and best practices that the open-source community can use as a guide for building and deploying interoperable software.

Along with those efforts, the OSA will create prototypes of working code to show that the interoperability principles work in practice. The first prototype is the Common Customer View, which aims to bring together information held in different members' applications including CRM (customer relationship management), ERP (enterprise resource planning) and business intelligence software and a legacy point-of-sale application. The prototype will also draw on Talend's open-source data integration software and other integration expertise from Unisys and SpikeSource.

Here's what the prototype is expected to make possible, according to Gold: When an individual updates information about a customer in their ERP application, they'll then be able to see that new information as they access the same customer's record held in their CRM software.

The OSA hopes to demonstrate the Common Customer View prototype at the LinuxWorld show due to take place Aug. 6-9 in San Francisco, Gold said. The prototype will act as a reference implementation to support other interoperability work the consortium plans around single sign-on for applications, common search, a common look-and-feel to user interfaces and real-time synchronization of business data.

The consortium also announced its first board of directors. Along with Gold, the four other board members are CentricCRM's Michael Harvey, JasperSoft's Barry Klawans, Openbravo's Josep Mitja and SpikeSource's Dominic Sartorio.

While the other members of OSA are open-source startups, Unisys is a long-established systems integrator with plenty of experience in the legacy and proprietary software world. Just over a year ago, Unisys announced that it expects open-source technology to be one of five strategic growth areas for the company.

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