Social Enterprise

10 open source projects worth checking out

The open source field is pretty crowded, but certain projects stand above the rest. Jack Wallen introduces 10 open source tools and solutions you don't want to overlook.

The open source field is pretty crowded, but certain projects stand above the rest. Jack Wallen introduces 10 open source tools and solutions you don't want to overlook.

How many open source projects are out there? Thousands upon thousands. And out of all those projects, how many are worth paying attention to? Thousands? Hundreds? If you remove the usual suspects (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, GIMP, OpenOffice, Firefox, etc.), you can really start paring down the list. Here are 10 open source projects you might never have heard of -- but really should check out.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: OpenBravo

Are you looking for your next ERP application? If so, do not overlook OpenBravo. This tool is a small-footprint powerhouse that includes integrated accounting, sales/CRM, procurement, inventory, production, and project/service management. OpenBravo also features single-instance to multiple tenants, organizations, localizations, and warehouses. It is every ERP tool you will need in one open source toolbox. If just want to evaluate it, you can try a virtual machine with OpenBravo. But to download a package, you will have to walk through a questionnaire. Warning: Someone might try to sell you something!

2: OpenNMS

OpenNMS should have no problem winning you over. This tool is a serious network management platform. OpenNMS offers three main areas: service polling, data collection, and event/notification management. Its feature list is pretty impressive and includes node listing, searches, outages, path outages, events, alarms, surveillance, and distributed status. If you need to be sold on this product, hop on over to the OpenNMS Demo page (user/password "demo") to see what this tool is all about. OpenNMS will run on Linux, Solaris, OS X, and Windows (2000, XP, 2003).

3: elgg

Elgg is an open source social networking platform that powers numerous social networking sites. As many companies move to offer in-house social networking, you would do well to invest a bit of time and effort into this open source project. The elgg social networking platform offers profiles, notifications, groups, blogs, embedded media, files, microblogging, pages, external pages, and more. If you're looking for a means to improve you company morale but don't want users logging on to Facebook or MySpace, give this open source social networking platform a try.

4: Magento

Magento is one serious ecommerce tool. This isn't your Drupal-ecommerce-module-level ecommerce tool -- this one can stand up with the big boy platforms (and knock some of them down). Magento features marketing/promotion tools, site management, analytics and reporting, catalog management, catalog browsing, product browsing, mobile solutions, checkout, shipping, payment, and more. Magento was voted "Best New Project" on SourceForge (2008) for a reason. With community and enterprise editions, there is a solution for everyone. NOTE: While the Community edition is free (and is missing numerous features), the Enterprise edition does have a price tag (and a steep one at that: $8,900 per year!)

5: dotProject

DotProject is a Web-based project management tool that offers the features you'd expect -- and more. The feature list includes user management, trouble-ticket system (integrated Ticketsmith), client/company management, project listings, hierarchical task lists, file repository, contact lists, calendar, forum, and a permission system. What stands out with dotProject is its clean and simple user interface.

6: Heartbeat

Heartbeat is the heart of the Linux High Availability project. It's the piece of the HA project that performs death-of-node detection, communications, and cluster management. Heartbeat is a daemon that provides the cluster infrastructure so that peer machines will know the status of all cluster resources. Of course, Heartbeat isn't much good without a Cluster Resource Manager (CRM). Since Hearbeat is a piece of the HA project, you can be sure there is a CRM tool ready. Although Heartbeat ships with a minimal CRM, a new project was spun off, Pacemaker, that serves as the CRM for the Heartbeat foundation. If you are looking for an open source clustering solution, this might be the ticket.

7: Enomoly

Enomoly offers a cloud computing solution for any size environment. If you want to get to the source, however, you have to use the Community edition. This version is for SMBs and smaller enterprise use. With this browser-based management tool, you can design, deploy, and manage virtual applications within a cloud environment. You can plan and simplify deployments and automate virtual machine scaling and load-balancing. If you are a developer, you will appreciate the fact that Enomoly includes links to both its core APIs.

8: Nuxeo

Nuxeo is an outstanding document management system that is incredibly feature rich and simple to install. Nuxeo has so many features, the best way for you to see them all is to go to the Nuxeo Feature List page. With the Nuxeo document management system, users can work either on- or offline (working offline requires an uploading of content). Users can simply drag and drop content from desktop to Web browser for content capture. It doesn't get much easier. Nuxeo is also offered in a cloud computing edition, which eliminates the need for storage, hardware infrastructure, or server availability. The cloud edition of Nuxeo was built with the Amazon AWS.

9: Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is another entry in the open source cloud computing space. There are two versions of this solution: Open Source and Enterprise. Naturally, we are looking at the Open Source edition. With the Eucalyptus cloud computing solution, you are getting more than just the means to serve up cloud apps -- you can also control both the network and the storage infrastructure. Eucalyptus works with Ubuntu, OpenSuSE, Debian, and CentOS and supports both Xen and KVM hypervisors.

10: Google Web Toolkit

Developers may want to consider adding Google Web Toolkit to their arsenal. You can use it to write a front end for an app in Java and then have GWT compile the source into a highly optimized JavaScript. And since GWT is open source, you can join the Google Webkit Community and contribute modifications for the project.

Your picks...

Have you come across an open source application that is a must-have? If so, share it with your fellow TechRepublic readers.

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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Splunk is lovely but not native package install and it seems to quickly exceed the limit for free use. I'm looking at OpenNMS now also. The focus on availability is great but I'm not seeing a good breakdown of system resources yet. Do the Debian folk out there have a prefered app somewhere between the two?


Saved my bacon. This week I was handed a win95 machine running a critical app in dos mode, and an XP box, with the instruction being 'get it running on XP.' It swiftly became obvious that wasn't going to happen, not natively in XP anyway. (no matter what it couldn't access config.sys exclusively as needed) Enter virtualbox OSE. Installed 95 in a VM on the XP machine, and the app is as happy as a clam. I see more and more of these ancient things lately, as the original hardware fails or begins giving signs of imminent failure.


OSSEC ("OS Security" at an open-source host-based intrusion detection system (HIDS). The developers are very responsive to those working in the trenches. I have not done much beyond a vanilla install (there is opportunity for endless customization). Nevertheless, I'm very impressed and grateful for the way OSSEC keeps an eye on my systems and lets me know when new or unusual things occur.


Kind of disappointing to see that the website for this has not been updated in over a year and the same for the Sourceforge files.

Jeff Dickey
Jeff Dickey

I generally call apps like that MFUs, for Management Foul Ups. Somebody, somewhere along the line, made the decision to use a piece of software that was irrevocably tied to a specific version of a specific platform (in your case, Windows 95). That happens. Where it becomes an MFU is when, at the point it becomes obviously present-hostile (say, Win2K or at latest XP), there wasn't an appropriately-resourced effort to migrate to a future-proofed replacement. Short version: Expediency is understandable, and often beneficial in the short term. But one thing we should have all learned well before Y2K is that unquestioned assumptions have consequences. (Back in the day, I was tasked with keeping what was probably the very last IBM 1401 in northern California up and happy a decade or so after it made sense to do so -- one of my first exposures to MFUs, but by no means the last.)


Yeah, they've been on kind of a hiatus for a while. The software still works though. We use it daily. Another team has broken off from the original team. Their version is called web2project. You might want to check them out too.


You've made me ponder several other of my client's needs, I can think of 4 or 5 that have boxed themselves in with a MFU somewhere in the past. I am going to have to deal with the end of life of the software they lean on for ~everything~. I did talk one place into hiring a coder to update an app that requires win2k, the coder is writing it to run on 7. Not cheap, this is the only client I imagine has the wherewithal. I'm going to have to pro-actively come up with a solution for these folks. One of them I have asked to port their network based app (with a proprietary database) to Linux but they won't answer calls unless the message you left is "we need to buy another license." Basically it's incumbent on me to undo any consequences of their MFU's. That or dump them as clients, which I cannot afford to do. Those old systems need a lot more attention than most, i.e. a disproportionate amount of my bread and butter...

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