You have touched on an interesting area – the suitability of open source software for enterprise applications. Open source is just beginning to move into this part of the software stack, and Compiere is one of the early entrants. So, your question is very timely.
Compiere is a combination ERP/CRM product. With a combined data metastructure for both types of functionality, it addresses the too-common problem of information silos that make it difficult to offer customers an integrated view of their order and service interactions. It is targeted toward organizations of less than $200 million in revenues, although this focus is more from a market segment choice rather than a technical limitation. Currently the product runs only on Oracle, but database independence should be supported in the near future. Compiere has had nearly one million downloads.
It is not typical that Compiere and SAP operate cooperatively; it's sort of a "Who's the boss" situation. It's either one or the other if you want an uncomplicated, lower-cost configuration. Migrating the data from SAP to Compiere is a detailed but not difficult challenge. There are several options for data transfer – SQL, Java API, and CSV.
The biggest challenge may be in configuring Compiere to meet the specific business needs of your company. Depending upon your company's industry, you may need to modify the data structures, workflows, etc. Compiere's partners can help in this effort if your organization is not able to perform this task.
As a side note, if you require additional assistance, partners are the only way to go. Jorg Janke, the founder of Compiere, chooses not to let his firm offer any services at all. Having worked at a couple of large ERP vendors he saw too many instances of partner conflict due to the vendor stepping in to snatch opportunities, and vowed not to let that happen with Compiere.
Compiere is certainly capable of scaling to the levels you describe in your question. One user is using Compiere to support over 200 retail outlets with several hundred users, with plans to move to 2,000 outlets.
The key to a successful migration is planning, piloting, and communication. Determine what modifications you've made to SAP for your implementation. Confirm that you can accomplish these mods in Compiere. Put together a pilot installation and test whether the right functionality and results are available in Compiere. Then create a project plan – and don't overlook the human deliverables as well. Change is stressful, so plan on lots of user interaction, and make sure you outline the benefits of moving to the new system in terms they appreciate – like vastly lower cost and more flexibility in upgrades.
This was first published in October 2004