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SugarCRM aims big with developers

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Developers will feature big in SugarCRM's plan to penetrate the enterprise, through greater customization capabilities and scalability for its software.

The hosted and on-site customer relationship management (CRM) start-up promises a major upgrade, version 5.0, this summer. Due in beta next month, SugarCRM 5.0 will scale to implementations of 5,000 seats, up from roughly 2,000.

SugarCRM is completely upgrading its visual development tools so that line-of-business managers can quickly create and share new modules, ultimately enabling end-users and partners to customize SugarCRM to suit their needs, John Roberts, chairman, chief executive and co-founder told The Register.

"Right now, our visual tools let you re-arrange things - you can drop down into the code base," Rhe said. "Now, we are going to the next level, to create workspace applications that are unique to three or four people. When you need something, the business person can knock it out in three to four hours without consulting the IT department."

Increased customization comes as SugarCRM tries to dig deeper into larger accounts. SugarCRM must give executives that have knowledge of business processes and building macros but little coding experience the ability to customize if it is to penetrate vertical sectors, corporate departments and workgroups.

Some of the success of Salesforce.com, SugarCRM much bigger rival,can be attributed to the ability users with little programming experience to customize their software. Salesforce.com also encourages third parties to customize and extend its CRM platform through AppExchange and the Apex programming framework and language.

Roberts dismissed the need for another programming language - SugarCRM uses PHP on MySQL - but believes SugarCRM will benefit from a customer backlash against traditional, closed-source applications sold by SAP and Oracle. According to Roberts, the end-user is increasingly in charge of picking the software they use. Also, the appetite is growing for self customization, because it eliminates the need to hire expensive consultants or to inject delay into the process by involving corporate IT.

"Software is not this black box anymore," he said. "You are getting people questioning: 'Why don't I get the source code?' There's a backlash brewing against the proprietary model and languages, and the heavy use of [vendors'] sales people going over the ranks' heads."

With larger deployments expected, SugarCRM is looking to provide developers with some training in building out clustered server environments. SugarCRM's inaugural developer conference in May, in San Jose, will feature sessions on clusters and best practices with advice on programming in PHP and technical discussions. SugarCRM claims 10,000 members of its developer forums and 351 third-party modules. Additionally, SugarCRM is re-sold or hosted by 120 partners.

"For us, the developer conference [comes as] we are just getting to the size and scale where out projects are huge... 100,000 users plus 1,200 paying corporations within two years. We are at that point... [where] you should hold good, meaningful industry events that provide value," Roberts said. ®

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