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SugarCRM has long lived in the shadow of Salesforce.com, partly thanks to the latter's headline grabbing chief executive.

The PHP-based CRM outfit wasn't helped, though, by the actions of its own former CEO, who was finally asked to step down by the company's board in early 2009 and replaced open-source mover and shaker Larry Augustin.

Now SugarCRM, whose software is available on premises and as a service, hopes to can steal back some cloud thunder by harnessing Microsoft's Windows Azure.

Sugar 6, released this week, has been certified for deployment Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud.

SugarCRM hopes to leverage Azure's global availability to reach developers and business types in more markets.

Announcing the plan to plug SugarCRM on Azure in November last year, as he became CEO, Augustin said Azure would let SugarCRM's value added resellers create and deploy "unique solutions to customers around the globe" and help deliver on SugarCRM's strategy of "delivering simple, affordable CRM anywhere."

The relationship is two-way, though. Microsoft needs more end users and more ISV partners running on Azure. It has claimed 10,000 customers on Windows Azure, but Microsoft is likely including its early adopters and loyal customers along with flagship accounts its deliberately wooed to make Azure look credible. Real-world adoption of Azure is some way off.

Windows' Azure director of marketing Prashant Ketkar said in a statement that Sugar 6 on Windows Azure "showcases the openness and flexibility of the Azure platform" calling Microsoft's cloud an "ideal environment for Sugar developers, users and partners alike."

This is not SugarCRM's first foray into cloud, but it is the first move onto Windows Azure. Sugar released Sugar Community Edition on Amazon's EC2 in September 2009, making its Community Edition available as an Amazon Machine Image. ®

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