SugarCRM Introduces SugarCRM 6.0 (and the crowd goes wild…)

I am going to get this out of the way right now: I am not a big proponent of Open Source for Enterprise Applications (feel free, the comments section is all yours).  I totally believe in the concept of Open Source, I am just not sure of how well it works for mission critical applications.  My experience has always been that most organizations that embrace Open Source are just looking for cheap solutions and not too concerned about the quality and innovation that Open Source can bring with it.  In term, that becomes a problem for the vendors providing extensions 0r support for Open Source applications, since they have to deliver what their clients are asking for (cheap, not always good).

I was at SugarCon last week (I was there to participate in a Social CRM track, which will be covered in a further post) and decided to listen to the keynote.  Honest truth? I was not expecting much: just a couple of minor announcements, maybe a new version release that followed in the steps of the previous version with 2-3 more features, things like that.  What I saw and heard was a company that has changed the way we have to look at Open Source for Enterprise Applications.

Where does SugarCRM get the idea that they can take an Open Source application and turn it into an enterprise-ready, fully comparable solution to commercial vendors? The gall, I tell you…

They announced SugarCRM 6.0 (available later this year, so this is all still slideware and demos until then) last week with these four key improvements:

Its all about the cloud – I said before that starting now and for the next few years we will become a lot, if not all, about the cloud when it comes to technologies.  Also wrote about platforms becoming the next battle zone for enterprise software applications.  I still believe that the cloud is where things will be fought, and where enterprises are headed in the near future.  To this end, Sugar’s partnership with Microsoft is quite interesting, allowing their customers to slowly migrate and take on the cloud – if that is what they need.  There is no rush to adopt it, but if they want to move into it — Azure will be there waiting for them in four potential models for deployment.  Very clever way for Sugar to support the cloud, and for Microsoft to make some name for their Azure platform (I have my reservations on the value of Azure, but I am not a cloud analyst — better people than me have said it works and I will take their word for it).

EAI for the web – One of the most lacking areas for hosted, SaaS, and on-demand applications have been integration.  One of the reasons I am enthusiastic about platforms, they can solve the issue of integration.  But, I digress.  Sugar has partnered with Snap-Logic, a vendor that creates connectors between on-premise solutions and web-based applications to be deployed in the cloud.  I talked to them for a while and looked at their offers and shows lots of potential.  Snap-Logic has created what I affectionately call an EAI (Enterprise Architecture Integration) layer for web-based applications and something that brings a lot of promise to the cloud world.  Again, very clever for Sugar to partner with them to offer integration capabilities without actually having to write the code (thus the EAI comparison).

Highly likely we will be there for you – To me this is the most significant announcement they made, and one that puts them in equal footing with on-premise and other on-demand and hosted vendors.  Sugar partnered with SIOS to provide High-Availability (HA) services.  That means that enterprises that want to use Sugar can now depend on load balancing, scalability and continuous operations no matter what.  This is significant and allows for much larger, and more mission critical, implementations to take on SugarCRM.  Now, if you were to combine the cloud and “EAI” layers mentioned above with HA — it creates a very interesting position for a CRM company to be — even more so for a platform (not that I am calling them a platform, I am just saying what an interesting position that would be).

The face of things to come – The interface for SugarCRM 5.x was rather primitive (did not use it before version 5.2, so I cannot comment on that), and that is being generous.  It almost looked like one step ahead of my first web-based application in 1995.  The new interface, using AJAX and pop-ups, is a tremendous improvement.  This is not the biggest part of the announcement, although it does make it easy to look at and navigate, but the availability of the new interface to all partners to create much better applications is a very interesting part of this announcement and one that i am looking forward to explore further when the product is released in June 2010.

So, there you have it – an Open Source company that took the challenge of becoming enterprise ready to heart and delivered a good first two steps towards it.  I like the potential, a lot.  I can see how their partners can now work in building very high-level extensions (saw some of them already at their Expo, more on that in some other post) that will create an integral solution to deliver a very comparable, very scalable solution for Enterprise CRM.

Disclaimer: I did not get paid by SugarCRM to write this, nor are they a client.  I did attend the conference as their guest, and my expenses were paid in exchange for a presentation I did in the Social CRM track (which was way cool, but the topic of another post).  These are my opinions, and they are positive because I can only see the good in people.  No, not really.  They are positive because I am focused on the potential that this can bring to enterprise applications.  Will it come through? Not my call, but I hope so.  If it does not happen as predicted, you are welcome to lend me your crystal ball next time and maybe I can get it right.  If you made your decisions solely on the contents of this posting, I do have some ocean-front property in Arizona I would like to sell to you for a steal. Do your research, look at other opinions, consider due diligence and then make your decision.  If it agrees with my opinions – cool.