Doing business with Apache OFBiz: Open source ERP solution

Many large sucessful enterprises use Apache OFBiz as their ERP solution. Find out how to get started with this open source tool for your e-business.

It is possible for any organization, no matter how small, to establish a significant online sales presence, and...

there are open source tools to help them do it cheaply. In this tip, I will introduce Apache OFBiz (Open For Business), a comprehensive open source solution under constant development for almost a decade, and the engine behind some of the Web's largest online enterprises.


Introducing Apache OFBiz
More than merely a product and order management solution, Apache OFBiz provides a suite of functionality for practically every aspect of an enterprise. In addition to managing products and related content (such as a store blog), Apache OFBiz can fulfill a variety of other crucial roles including customer relationship management, project schedule and billing manager, human resource management, and order fulfillment. In short, it is an Enterprise Resource Planner. Thousands of organizations around the world rely on OFBiz for managing one or more of these areas, including 1-800flowers.com, the American Heart Association, and United Airlines.

An Apache Software Foundation (ASF) project, the OFBiz team has the luxury of drawing upon the considerable resources and expertise found throughout the Apache sibling projects.

Installing OFBiz
Consider exploring OFBiz by installing it on your local machine. The only technical requirement is the Java 2 SDK.

Once the Java SDK is installed, you can either download the latest stable version of OFBiz, or use a Subversion client to download the latest snapshot, as I demonstrate here:

$ svn co http://svn.apache.org/repos/asf/ofbiz/trunk ofbiz

Once checked out of the repository, execute the following command to build OFBiz:

$ ./ant run-install

The build process is 100% automated, and took almost 17 minutes on my fairly well endowed laptop. Once the build is complete, start the OFBiz server by executing the following command:

$ ./startofbiz.sh

If you're running Windows, execute the startofbiz.bat file instead of the startofbiz.sh.

The OFBiz server comes complete with a sample Web store complete with an example product catalog. Once the server has started, you can access the store's public interface via the following URL:

As you can see in the screenshot of the store's home page (below), not only is the sample product catalog readily available for browsing, but so is a shopping cart, user account management features, newsletter subscription interface, and advanced catalog features such as featured products and promotional offers.

Click on image for larger version

The OFBiz Application Manager
You can access to the store catalog manager and other OFBiz features through the management interface, accessible via the following URL:

In order to access this manager you'll need to login using the administrator account. The account username is admin and the default password is ofbiz. Once logged in, you'll have access to 27 constituent OFBiz applications via the drop-down menu presented in below.

Click on image for larger version

In addition to reaching into every operational aspect of a typical business, 28 interfaces are available for managing the entire product lifecycle, including manufacturing, inventory, suppliers, and search keywords.

Click on image for larger version

The number of OFBiz features can be intimidating, particularly if you initially plan on only using a small selection of what's available. But, it's possible to easily remove unwanted tabs, and restore them as needed. Additionally, the management console allows you to restrict access to available components through a set of powerful user and privilege administration interfaces.

Learn More About Apache OFBiz
More information about OFBiz is available through these sites:

  • The OFBiz Wikipedia page: Wikipedia is often the best place to begin when first investigating a new topic. Wikipedia's OFBiz page offers a succinct overview of the project and technology.
  • The OFBiz YouTube Channel: Eight introductory videos are currently available if you'd rather watch than read.
  • The OFBiz documentation: Although the OFBiz documentation is a tad more unorganized than other Apache projects, it nonetheless offers a tremendous amount of technical detail and insight into the project's inner workings.

For enterprises interested in taking their online sales efforts beyond mere shopping cart and product catalog integration, OFBiz presents an immensely attractive solution capable of organizing project efforts on a departmental and even company-wide level. If you're currently using OFBiz or plan on learning more about it, I'd love to hear from you!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jason Gilmore is founder of the publishing, training, and consulting firm WJGilmore.com. He is the author of several popular books including Easy PHP Websites with the Zend Framework, Easy PayPal with PHP, and Beginning PHP and MySQL, Fourth Edition. Follow him on Twitter at @wjgilmore.


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