SugarCRM offers biggest upgrade yet

SugarCRM releases platform update after protracted beta period.

SugarCRM has released the 5.0 version of its open-source customer relationship management software following a long period of development and testing.

Sugar 5.0 features improvements in three main areas, according to the company: a new on-demand architecture designed to improve security; tools that let nontechnical users build custom modules; and an AJAX e-mail client that is compatible with any server that supports the POP3 protocol. The release also delivers upgraded dashboarding capabilities.

The software went through three beta cycles and was tested more than 30,000 times by members of SugarCRM's open-source community, said Chris Harrick, senior director of product marketing for the Cupertino, California, company.

Harrick said the open-source development model allows software to be vetted far more thoroughly than an in-house quality testing team can.

In-house teams "serve their purpose. They do a good job and they're hard-working people. But [open-source provides] the wisdom of the crowd," he argued.

Harrick downplayed the fact that it took three betas to achieve a release-worthy product. "I think it's really a result of our development process. We iterate quickly and get it out there," he said.

The company has created a Flash demo that walks through the new features in detail.

China Martens, an analyst with the 451 Group, said SugarCRM is looking to land larger enterprise customers with the 5.0 release.

"This is the most substantial kind of project they've done. ... it was really crucial for them to try and get this right," Martens said.

"We think it's good, but the bottom line is we want to see bigger users for Sugar until we get really excited," she added.

In a space crowded by seemingly similar CRM offerings, SugarCRM has tried to differentiate itself partly through fostering a user-friendly image, according to Martens. The company's attitude, according to Martens, is, "Forget about the technical guys, we're Sugar and you can configure us. We're friendly."

SugarCRM Professional in on-demand form costs US$40 per user per month.

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