CRM Vendors Embrace Open Source CRM

To satisfy the increasing demand for CRM systems that run on the Linux platform, E.piphany, Siebel Systems, and SugarCRM join the list of CRM vendors providing open source offerings. "The decision was made because there's more customer interest here and in Europe for a Linux version of E.piphany CRM, as more companies move to a Linux enterprise strategy," says E.piphany spokesman Gordon Evans. The server market is moving toward Linux, so it only makes sense that CRM application vendors make their products available on the platform, says Chris Selland, vice president of sell-side research for Aberdeen Group. He and Yankee Group CRM analyst Sheryl Kingstone expect other major CRM vendors to also offer their products on the Linux platform. However, according to Kingstone, midmarket CRM companies with smaller IT staffs to work on such developments will probably stay with their current operating platforms. E.piphany, will make the E.piphany E.6 CRM software suite available on Linux by the end of the year. Customers, particularly those in financial services, have been seeking a Linux-based version of the platform so they can move away from costlier Unix and Microsoft operating platforms, according to Bill Roth, E.piphany's chief technology evangelist. E.6 software solution is based on an extensible J2EE infrastructure. There will probably be a higher percentage of Unix converts due the similarities of the Linux and Unix platforms, according to John Roberts, cofounder and CEO of SugarCRM. "There's no new skill set [among the IT staff] required. Financial services companies have been at the vanguard of seeking [less costly IT] solutions." Roberts also says that a Linux operating system usually requires a leaner IT staff than a Unix operating system. He expects to see more pure open source CRM vendors in the next few years. Siebel and IBM also cited lower cost of ownership as one of the primary reasons they are working together on database support for Siebel's CRM suite on Linux. The two companies are developing support for Siebel 7.7 on DB2 universal database for Linux, and support for Web-server and application-server tiers on future versions of Siebel CRM applications planned for release in 2005. Siebel had been committed to the Microsoft platform; the company's entry into the CRM application arena could be one reason Siebel sought a partnership with IBM, according to Selland. Unlike Siebel and E.piphany, SugarCRM isn't converting a previously developed CRM application to Linux. The company's Sugar.Sales application was initially developed on open source code. "We announced the application earlier this year, and we've already had more than 8,000 downloads," Roberts says. This past Monday the company released version 1.1 of the product, which enables the application to be translated into other languages. Sugar.Sales had already been translated into Chinese, French, German and Swiss, according to Roberts. "We're getting flooded by emails from established [CRM vendors'] customers," Roberts says. "That doesn't happen in the proprietary commercial world."
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