SugarCRM's New Spoonful
Open-source CRM vendor SugarCRM unveiled the beta release of its Sugar 5.0 suite this week, focusing enhancements around custom modules, a new AJAX email client, and a revamped architecture. With upgrades spanning across four areas--the platform, architecture, CRM functionality, and community development--executives refer to the new version as one of the company's most significant releases in its relatively brief history.
As with all Sugar releases, the new version comes in three editions: an open-source release available for free, and two commercial releases for which the vendor charges for additional functionality and technical support. Formerly known as Sugar Open Source, the free edition of the software officially changes its name to Sugar Community Edition (SCE) with Version 5.0. Another change is that SCE 5.0 marks the first Sugar release to be licensed under the GNU general public license. (Earlier editions had been under the auspices of the vendor's own Sugar Public License, a derivation of the Mozilla Public License.)
As for the commercial editions--Professional and Enterprise--users will be able to deploy those in a variety of models, including on-site and on-demand, along with appliance and stack versions. Customers can move between on-site and on-demand versions of Sugar as they choose, says Tara Spalding, SugarCRM's vice president of corporate marketing.
Enhancements to the platform include:
- A module-builder that takes on concepts of composite application development, such as combining new or existing bits of functionality or objects to create a process-based application. A custom object for employment candidates, for example, could be combined with the existing Contacts view to create a new recruiting module, Spalding says.
- Compatibility for custom modules (built using SugarCRM's platform) with the company's Reporting, Workflow, and Studio tools.
- A metadata-driven user interface that incorporates a new email client.
- Drag-and-drop features within email via AJAX functionality.
- Integration of the custom modules and the new email functions within the company's SFA software.
- Upgraded dashboards to support funnel and pie charts and bar graphs.
In Sugar 5.0, the vendor has also established a new on-demand architecture for its hosted version. The architecture is multi-instance, meaning that each customer receives a unique instance of the CRM software instead of sharing the same instance of the software with all customers, an architecture known as multitenant. The new architecture also enables users to share their custom-built modules across multiple Sugar deployments.
The company hopes the new architecture will help it compete more aggressively with on-demand rivals, Spalding says--such as Salesforce.com, which has a multitenant architecture. "I don't know of any other vendors with a similiar architecture," she adds. Available on an on-demand basis for less than three years, 40 percent of SugarCRM's 2,000 paying customers have opted for that deployment model, she says.
In other news, John Roberts, SugarCRM's cofounder and chief executive officer, revealed this week that the company's on track for an initial public offering in either 2008 or 2009. Roberts adds that Sugar, which generated revenues of less than $100 million last year, has ambitions of someday becoming a $1 billion enterprise player, a tenfold growth spurt he says will be thanks to a CRM market that he sees having plenty of untapped potential.
The company also laid out a roadmap for upcoming releases, with Sugar 5.1 due out in December and version 5.5 due for a release in mid-2008. SugarCRM also plans to incorporate more Web 2.0 collaborative capabilities in its CRM offerings, such as wikis, chat, and desktop-sharing functions, according to Spalding.
While Sugar still has a ways to go before it reaches $1 billion in revenue, Jeff Kaplan, an analyst with ThinkStrategies, says the company has market momentum and is doing a great job of taking advantage of two of the market's hottest trends: open source and on demand. "If you're considering Salesforce.com, then you've got to consider SugarCRM as well," Kaplan says. "They're offering a great value proposition."
That said, open source still has a long way to go, he adds, with many users still confused by its customization capabilities and licensing regulations. "It's still very new, and many businesses still have lots of questions about it. People still want to know how open source works."
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