SugarCRM Now Available for i5/OS
July 24, 2007 Alex Woodie
The transformation of System i into a platform for running cutting-edge, open source applications continued today when SugarCRM announced the availability of its customer relationship management (CRM) application for i5/OS. Sugar Enterprise, as the software is called, was written in PHP and uses Zend‘s PHP runtime environment and MySQL‘s open source database.
SugarCRM is a SourceForge success story. The story starts in April 2004, when John Roberts, Clint Oram, and Jacob Taylor began an open source application development project on the Sourceforge Web site, which was set up to foster communication among programmers and other advocates of the open source development method. By that September, the application, which was then called Sugar Open Source, had been downloaded 25,000 times.
Soon, the group attracted more than $25 million in venture funding, which helped grow the fledgling business. Today, the company has more than 100 employees at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, and the Sugar CRM project remains one of the most popular on SourceForge, although a separate Web site, www.sugarforge.org, has been set up to manage SugarCRM development efforts.
So what is SugarCRM, and why all the fuss? In short, SugarCRM is a suite of software products designed to help sales and marketing organizations better understand and serve their customers so they can increase sales and make more money. The software is one of a new generation of applications that run on the so-called “LAMP” stack, or Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP, although it also runs on proprietary server components, including IBM‘s i5/OS, Microsoft‘s SQL Server, and Oracle 10g. Three versions of the SugarCRM product are available, including one open source edition, called Sugar Open Source, and two commercial versions, called Sugar Professional and Sugar Enterprise.
In terms of functionality, the Sugar Enterprise suite is geared toward automating day-to-day tasks faced by sales and marketing organizations. The basic open source version, which is free, includes components for managing various aspects of sales and multi-channel marketing, including sales force automation, lead tracking, opportunity and contract management, hosting Web portals, serving e-mail and RSS feeds, document management, and hosting an employee directory.
Users moving up to the Sugar Pro version, which costs $275 per user per year, gain extra goodies such as sales forecasting, workflow and contract management, the “cross-module” reporting capability, campaign reporting, access to a knowledgebase and product catalog, wireless access, and an Outlook plug-in. Sugar Enterprise, which costs $449 per user per year, adds features such as support for Oracle databases, the advanced SQL reporting module, and the customer self-service module. Support for i5/OS is another feature only available to Enterprise customers.
Much of the fuss over SugarCRM stems from the company’s flexible approach to deploying the Sugar CRM system. Users can run it on their own hardware (using either Sugar On-Site or Sugar FastStack), run it on an appliance server to decrease configuration costs (SugarCube), or access it over the Web while it runs on servers owned by SugarCRM or one of its partners (Sugar On-Demand). Prices for Sugar Pro OnDemand start at $40 per month (or $480 per year), with a five-user minimum, while prices for Sugar Enterprise OnDemand start at $75 per month (or $900 per year). Customers can move freely among the three options–hosted, appliance, and on-site–as their needs change.
Also generating a buzz for SugarCRM is its SugarExchange, a marketplace where third-party vendors can sell products that integrate with the CRM software, similar to Salesforce.com‘s AppExchange. The SugarExchange launched in October, and through April it has attracted more than 230 applications, extensions, and modules, and more than 7,000 transactions have occurred on the SugarExchange, the company says.
Overall, SugarCRM has enjoyed rapid success. Since the project was started just three years ago, the CRM application has been downloaded more than 1.7 million times, and the software has been translated into 50 languages. More than 7,000 developers have contributed to the development effort, and more than 150 business partners have helped to sell and support the product. All told, more than 1,000 customers have bought and installed either the Pro or Enterprise versions.
Mark Shearer, general manager of IBM’s System i business, applauded the port of SugarCRM to i5/OS. “A key goal for IBM is to innovate the System i platform with new investments in cutting-edge, open source solutions that help them respond more quickly to business needs as they arise,” he says.
Jim Dillard, the IBM alliance manager with Zend Technologies, counted SugarCRM as another demonstration of the success PHP is having on the System i. “Many executives already realize PHP enables programmers to rapidly and inexpensively churn out web-based applications,” he says. “The abundance of open source applications is another reason executives are incorporating PHP on their technology roadmap.”
When deployed on the i5/OS platform, SugarCRM will require the MySQL database, not to mention the Zend Core development tools, as well as i5/OS V5R3 or V5R4. IBM and MySQL, the company that develops and sells maintenance services for the open source database, announced an agreement earlier this year to formalize the installation instructions for running MySQL on i5/OS and to obtain technical support. It is unknown whether SugarCRM will support DB2/400 running as an “engine” within the MySQL database when IBM and MySQL deliver that capability.