OFBiz officially joins the ASF

As of this writing, the DNS/infrastructure hasn’t quite caught up, but ofbiz.apache.org ought to be live soon. “Apache Open For Business”, aka OFBiz, has been promoted out of the incubator (the term the ASF uses for projects hoping to become full-fledged ASF projects) to its own top level project.

As J Aaron Farr mentions, they managed most everything on their own, and were a project that wouldn’t have looked out of place as part of the ASF even from the beginning of the incubation period, which made my job as a “mentor” pretty easy.

What will be interesting is to track the project going forward. It has tremendous potential, because it focuses very much on providing not only the low level tools (which is still where most open source is), but also on creating good business models and processes, which is relatively newer terrain in the open source world.

I think they face a couple of important challenges. First and foremost, a way to lower the barrier to entry. OFBiz is a big collection of code that in some ways tends to stand alone compared to the “mainstream” in that it uses its own tools in terms of the framework. Also, since it encompasses so much, it’s a lot to come to terms with when you get started. This means that the initial step of the “learning curve” is pretty high, and I imagine that a lot of people stumble. Clearly, it’s not a simple application, but I think efforts to make it more approachable will pay off in terms of attracting more users (and eventually, developers).

The broader challenge is simply the fact that in some ways, this is uncharted territory for free software, so it remains to be seen what sort of “ecosystem” (if you’ll pardon the buzzword) grows up around it. For instance, at this point in time, no one, least of all the core developers, sees it as a program that you simply download and run, but rather as a place to start from for integrators and developers who mould the code to fit the needs of the particular firm adopting it. That’s working right now, but perhaps at some point it will be more of an out of the box system. Or maybe not – attempting to make it work well for a vague ‘everyone’ might just be chasing taillights and prove ultimately fruitless.

Unfortunately, I still haven’t had the opportunity to use it “in anger”, as they say, so I don’t have much to say about it technically, but from a business point of view, I really like their data model, and the system of processes they’ve put together, which allows you to capture a great deal of use cases in a very flexible way, which is no mean feat.

In any case, a big round of congratulations to the core developers, and best wishes for the future!

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