SugarCRM CEO: It's the End of Salesforce

SugarCRM CEO John Roberts believes the time for open-source enterprise applications is upon us.

SugarCRM Chairman and CEO John Roberts is convinced that the era of open-source applications is upon us.

So he told eWEEK Senior Writer Renee Boucher Ferguson on the eve of the company's second annual SugarCon conference Feb. 6-8.

And in many ways it has. Open-source operating systems such as Linux have become mainstream, as have open-source vendors such as Red Hat.

And while the four-year-old SugarCRM has just outgrown its startup phase, according to Roberts, the company has gained a respectable following with its open-source project. This includes 65,000 members in its open-source community and 12,000 developers using its SugarForce platform, many of whom have translated SugarCRM into 570 languages and built 470 extensions to the suite.

The commercial side of the company, which sells and supports SugarCRM's software, has about 3,000 customers. The company announced Feb. 6 a $20 million investment from New Enterprise Associates, bringing the total funding in SugarCRM to $46 million.

Existing investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Walden International also joined this round of funding.

Q: What is the big message you want to impart to customers at this year's SugarCon conference?

A: SugarCon is our second annual user and developer conference, so it's a really exciting event for us an open-source project and as a software and on-demand company. In the early days the conference was mostly engineers. This year it's developers and customers. We've transcended the last couple years to end users as well. But I think, stepping back from it all, as a company that's less than four years old and started as a commercial application from day one, [this conference] is really more validation that commercial open source is ready for prime time - clearly a new IT model for companies going forward.

Q: There has been a lot of validation for open-source technologies like operating systems, databases and application servers. But the story is not quite the same for open-source applications for the enterprise. What challenges do you still face as a provider?

A: That's exactly the story. You have folks like you and me that have spent our careers in enterprise apps. Most of open source has really been about the OS or app server or database and the thought was, four years ago, that open source was not applicable to applications, and certainly not enterprise apps, and it wouldn't work. We always believed open source was more applicable to enterprise apps.

Now we're seeing the adoption of Sugar Professional, of Sugar Enterprise from companies like the Royal Bank of Canada, H&R Block, Men's Wearhouse. It's getting mainstream, and commercial enterprises are betting big. And rightly so. Open source is more modern, more quality and is a better value.