webERP Development Roots
Logic Works was originally incorporated in 1997 as a limited liability vehicle for the distribution of a Microsoft Access based ERP system. This was originally a pure Microsoft Access application – but multi-user issues soon became evident and the heavy network requirements for a multi-user system using Microsoft Access made this a difficult application to run reliably. The application was originally developed on Access 2 but the system was almost entirely re-written using SQL Server (Transact-SQL) stored procedures to ensure the processing load was on the server hardware to minimise network overhead and the demands on the client machine. The SQL Server version was not widely distributed. The SQL Server system had similar functionality to what webERP has now including contract costing and manufacturing had full MRP. It was developed for and used extensively for plastics manufacturing with preferred machine loading and capacity requirements planning capabilities. The logic of having the processing all done at the server with very little dependence on client software was persuasive. How then to make a graphical application without a large client application?
A new approach was needed. Realisation of this fact coincided with exposure to SuSE Linux in 1998. At a time when server software in the form of NT Server had some real issues, SuSE was a revalation. As a way to provide robust, efficient, low cost server functionality for file sharing, email, proxy server and web-server. The richness and flexibility of the software available for the platform inspired me as did the free availability of free development tools. Development tools that didn't swamp the CPU or memory and worked on windows Unix or linux. In particular the platform presented by the Apache web-server, MySQL RDBMS and the PHP scripting language – with Linux running this platform now widely referred to as the LAMP platform. Solutions developed on this platform were:
- Required minimal investment in infrastructure to run them
- Incurred only minimal load on server resources
The choice of development tools was therefore much more considered than the early infatuation with MS Access and SQL Server. Work on webERP began in 2000 and the logic used in the MS Access based system formed the basis for webERP. Much had been learned about normalised database design as the basis for an efficient application and programming for scalability. The already highly normalised table design was originally converted from the SQL Server tables to MySQL using a small utility. The first release was not until December 2003.