The low upfront cost and open nature of Linux are making open-source software a CRM alternative for small and midsize businesses.
Leading a small groundswell of open-source customer relationship management offerings is SugarCRM Inc., which reports more than 21,000 downloads of its initial open-source sales force automation application, SugarSales, since the product was made available July 4.
The Cupertino, Calif., startup hopes to sustain the momentum this week with the release of SugarSales Professional 1.5, which includes new data migration capabilities, a new plug-in for integrating contact and account information from Microsoft Corp.s Outlook e-mail client into SugarSales, and Web services support for integration with J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) and Microsofts .Net applications.
SugarCRM is introducing paid services with the new release as well. For $149 per user per year, customers get product and technical support, patch management services, access to SugarCRMs knowledge forum, and custom consulting services. The company plans to add full marketing automation capabilities by next month and customer service and support applications by early next year, officials said.
For Prevalent Networks LLC, a fast-growing security integration startup, SugarCRM was a better alternative to FrontRange Solutions Inc.s GoldMine licensed CRM software, which the company initially deployed, and Salesforce.com Inc.s namesake hosted CRM service, which it evaluated.
Jonathan Dambrot, partner at Prevalent, who plans to soon have at least 100 users on SugarCRM, said SugarCRMs open-source nature made it easy for Prevalent to integrate its business processes with the software.
"We had access to the source code, which gave us the ability to integrate our ... business processes," said Dambrot in Bedminster, N.J. "Weve gotten everybody to use it, including our engineering staff. They wouldnt use GoldMine."
The major CRM software companies—Siebel Systems Inc., PeopleSoft Inc., SAP AG and Oracle Corp.—offer some Linux support directly in their applications or through support of Linux databases. But none plans to make code available to the open-source community.
Forrester Research Inc. analyst Erin Kinikin said she didnt expect open source to make real inroads in CRM beyond what SugarCRM has achieved. "For large enterprises, open- sourcing CRM means worrying about the 10 percent of CRM that is license costs, instead of the 90 percent of CRM that is realigning your business and integrating your systems to get value," said Kinikin in Santa Clara, Calif.
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