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Open Source Alliance founded to foster OSS interoperability

Interoperability is the noble mission of the new Open Solutions Alliance, unveiled today at LinuxWorld Open Solutions Summit. In this Q&A, an OSA founding member -- Josef Mitja of Openbravo -- explains how and why the group plans to achieve interoperability between open source apps.

The Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) was formally introduced at the Open Solutions Summit at LinuxWorld on Feb. 14. According to the OSA Web site, its members are dedicated to making enterprise-class open source software solutions work together.

In this LinuxWorld interview with Josep Mitja, chief operating officer for Openbravo, Mitja discusses the role of Openbravo, one of the founding members of the Open Solutions Alliance, and how the Open Solutions Alliance will impact the community. What is the Open Solutions Alliance?

Josep Mitja: This came from a group of open source companies that were facing very similar challenges, such as convincing customers that open source is ready for the enterprise, as well as [issues with] business models -- what works and what doesn't.

We have three key principles: facilitate interoperability between partner companies, promote the concept that open source is ready for the enterprise and to try to put our communities into contact and be more open about what the communities can do for us.

Many of our customers want to have multiple solutions that work at the same time. Managing the community is a very important aspect and it is not an easy thing to do. Basically, [we] ended up with a proposal to start the alliance.

What role will the OSA play in the OSS community?

Mitja: The idea behind the alliance [OSA] is that it is open to anybody who is in the open source space. Currently, Openbravo is the only ERP-focused company in the group, but we want to be an open group. In terms of roles, I think we have been one of the most active founding members from the beginning. I don't think there is any special role. The idea is that it is open to any other companies. Also, in terms of roles, the alliance was started by ISVs. We've also seen a lot of interest among systems integrators. Some want to be involved. There are ISVs which we believe should have a very important role, but there are also systems integrators that want to integrate and we're reaching out to them. Finally, we have friends, people who like what we do and wish us well.

What sets the OSA apart from other open source organizations?

Mitja: Some open source organizations are very well-known, like the Linux Foundation or the OSSI. The OSSI is more about defining or working on licensing. I think there was no forum of open source companies, open source vendors that are building business for the enterprise.

If you take a look at the niche of the customers, there was a need for interoperability and proving that open source is ready for the enterprise. We don't see any other organizations doing this. The organization made sense for all of us very quickly. By the latest accounting, there are going to be 11 founding members. That's a good sign of interest.

What does this mean to Linux IT managers?

Mitja: From a technical perspective, what is very relevant is interoperability. For example, Openbravo does ERP. Many people want a CRM on top of an ERP. Maybe they want to have BI. They would like to have all of these integrated simultaneously and they would like to do this without a lot of work.

We're trying to harmonize our solutions so that, for example, single sign-on can be easier or reaching a common naming [convention] for our icons, things like that. Another very simple thing is agreeing on what should be the standards [for integrating] one application with another -- for example, what customer records should look like.

Putting up the bridges between one application and another is complex. If we work together, we [can] agree on how to bridge the customer records, like names of fields and how to do it. If we prepare our applications in the same fashion, it will make it easier to put together the applications.

Single sign-on is Web-based. Imagine a CRM [application] that is Web-based. If you want to log into the ERP [application], you need to log in once. If you need to log into the CRM app, you need to log in again. What we want to achieve is the alignment in our infrastructure. If we use the same components and have the same philosophy, it becomes easier for our customers to do things.

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