After four months of beta availability and testing, SugarCRM today officially announced the general availability of its Sugar 6 CRM customer relationship management platform. Sugar 6 includes an open source community edition as well as commercially licensed professional and enterprise editions.
With Sugar 6, SugarCRM is expanding its partnership base with enhanced extensibility that enables partner solutions. There is a new user interface that aims to make CRM users more productive with fewer keystrokes. While the Sugar 6 solution has open source technology at its core, users that download the open source community edition will get a different interface than users of the commercial professional and enterprise editions. For SugarCRM, the issue of being an open source company is all about being open to users.
"As an open source project, we've given people a lot, and Community edition has helped us to get where we are today," Martin Schneider, senior director of communications at SugarCRM, told InternetNews.com.
Schneider added that in his experience, he would go to conferences and users of SugarCRM's professional solution were not aware of the community edition and vice versa. As such, the new version takes pains to show the Sugar user base that there is a difference between the freely available community edition and the paid versions of Sugar.
With Sugar 6, professional and enterprise customers get a new global search option for CRM records as well as the ability to more rapidly create contact records. When Sugar 6 was first announced as a beta in April, SugarCRM co-founder Clint Oram told InternetNews.com that the goal was to reduce the number of click users needed to accomplish tasks.
Schneider explained that with Sugar 6, the company is delivering a 'Go Pro' message to community users. The new user interface for the professional and enterprise versions is the front-end for other commercial enhancements, including better security, mobile and reporting features in the paid versions. He emphasized that overall, Sugar 6 is an open source product from an open source company.
Open source doesn't mean free
"Open source doesn't mean free and was never really meant to mean free," Schneider said. "Open source runs through everything we do, it enables us to be transparent and gives customers more power. We are an open source company and it's why we're better than proprietary companies."
Though the community edition is not getting the same new user interface as the commercial versions, all three versions of Sugar 6 will benefit from an improved Sugar module builder. The module builder has been improved for all users of Sugar 6 to provide users with more integrated data views into the system. For example, a user can choose to integrate a contact's Twitter feed into a CRM record or an adjacent record tab. Schneider explained that any website can be exposed inside of a contact record to provide additional visibility.
From an extensibility perspective, Sugar 6 supports both SOAP and REST Web services, providing data integration points for partners. Sugar 6 is also being enabled to run on Microsoft's Azure cloud operating system.
Schneider said that to date, 70 percent of SugarCRM's customers run Sugar in either a cloud or hosted environment, while only 30 percent run Sugar onsite. SugarCRM offers its own on-demand hosted offering, though Schneider stressed that hosting isn't SugarCRM's core business.
"We want to empower other people to have cloud deployments and help customers get up and running," Schneider said. "We don't want to be in the hosting business, we want to be everywhere and run everywhere."
With the Sugar 6 release now available, future point releases of the platform are expected to be released every quarter, with a 6.1 release in the fall. The previous release from SugarCRM was Sugar 5.5 in May 2009.