Sweet Open Source CRM for Microsoft
SugarCRM announced Wednesday the beta release of Sugar 4.5, with the full release of 4.5 coming on August 15 during the LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco. Sugar 4.5 includes the first fruit from a technical agreement the open source provider signed with Microsoft in February, with the latest version offering tighter integration with Microsoft's Internet Information, Active Directory, and SQL server software.
In addition to the enhanced support for Microsoft products, SugarCRM will also release a new distribution of version 4.5 specifically optimized for Microsoft's Windows OS and available under the Microsoft Community License. The license is part of the Microsoft Shared Source Initiative, a program through which Microsoft shares source code with customers, partners, and governments worldwide.
John Roberts, chairman and CEO of SugarCRM, stresses that the Windows distribution of Sugar 4.5 does not represent the company moving away from its open source roots. "In no way, shape, or form are we dropping support for Linux," Roberts says. The Windows distribution is the third optimized version of Sugar, in addition to versions for the LAMP stack and Apple Computer's Mac OS. LAMP is an open source Web-development platform based on Linux, Apache, and MySQL.
But with 35 percent of SugarCRM's customer base currently running on Microsoft Windows Server, Roberts considers the partnership a smart move to expand his company's product line. "While we're still full steam ahead with Linux developments, we're now taking advantage of a new distribution license that's optimized for Windows Server. We're opening open source to Windows users," he says.
Roberts also says the partnership will improve deployment times and lower overall costs for those customers already using SugarCRM products on Windows Server. "We're allowing our customers to capitalize on their existing Windows infrastructure," he says. "In addition, the simplified language contained within the Microsoft Community License also provides a straightforward licensing option that meets the needs of our mutual customers."
There are about 450 current customers, and the partnership has the potential to increase that number significantly, says Laurie McCabe, vice president of SMB insights and business solutions at AMI-Partners. "A lot of SMBs that SugarCRM has been targeting over the years have a lot more familiarity with [the] Microsoft Windows platform than with Linux," she says. "I think that's great for the customers. They won't have to run on a platform that they're not as familiar with."
Originally due to appear in June, SugarCRM delayed the release of Sugar 4.5 to add additional improvements, including a new user interface to make personalization easier. SugarCRM incorporated Ajax technology throughout the application to accomplish this, allowing end users to drag, drop, edit, and remove objects from pages within the application to reveal the important information. "Users can rearrange the entire user interface if they want," Roberts says.
SugarCRM also improved the internationalization features in Sugar 4.5, Roberts says. This includes support multi-byte character sets used in languages like Chinese, and UTF-8 to help ensure that international users "will be able to store, search, and retrieve data in almost any language."
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