The OSA, introduced at the Open Solutions Summit earlier this year in New York, hopes to create vendor-neutral standards for the interoperability of diverse applications, keeping vendors from having to reinvent the wheel every time a client needs a custom solution featuring enterprise CRMs, ERPs, and NMSs that all have to "talk to each other," says Anthony Gold, OSA board member and VP/general manager of open source business for Unisys.
The problem now is that they don't talk to each other, he says, "and there are no standards that say, 'here's how we're going to do this.' If you update customer data in the CRM, someone in ERP should get automatically updated info."
That's one of the problems OSA hopes the Common Customer View Prototype will solve for member companies. Gold says Unisys had a similar challenge with a large brokerage house and its diverse systems.
"They offer capital growth portfolios, online brokerage accounts, retirement accounts... you can imagine they have clients with multiple accounts in different systems, what with mergers and acquisitions, you have different systems running in all parts of the company. So when they want to do data-mining, it's all split and the different applications can't communicate."
The Common Customer View Prototype is 25% complete, but the OSA hopes to complete the the project in time for LinuxWorld Expo in August. OSA's roadmap includes more projects that will further interoperability, like application-to-application business flow, common user experience, and common infrastructure.
In addition to practical projects like these, the OSA says it is on a mission to advocate for open solutions, to create a meta-community of users, system integrators, and developers, and defining guidelines and best practices for interoperability between disparate open solutions and with proprietary applications as well.
Another interoperability alliance formed in February 2006, the Interop Vendor Alliance, is supported by Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, and SugarCRM, among other companies.
The two groups, whose functions are similar, do not have any overlap in membership, though board member Michael Harvey, chief marketing officer at CentricCRM, says Microsoft is interested in what the OSA is doing. OSA spokespersons say that their alliance is not intended to replace any existing organizations, and that membership is not limited only to companies that release products under an approved open source license.