SugarCRM joined the ranks of Salesforce.com and WebEx today in creating a commercial marketplace of applications and extensions to the base CRM platform. SugarExchange starts with 100 applications certified by SugarCRM (which is based on open source code), including more than 40 available for purchase.
SugarExchange has its roots in SugarForge.org, which was launched in April 2005, and has grown to over 5,000 developers and more than 260 open source projects in 39 languages, according to SugarCRM CEO John Roberts. "We have stayed true to our roots, with a clean separation between open source and commercial products," Roberts said. "You can't buy anything on SourceForge.org, but we shouldn't be the only ones benefiting from projects. With SugarExchange, we provide a mechanism for others to beneifit financially. It's another layer on SourceForge, so developers can dual license their code, selling more advanced versions of open source modules on SugarExchange.
SugaCRM created the core open source code for its application and layers on about 25 percent proprietary code in the commercial open source edition. Customers have access and can modify all the SugarCRM source code, but cannot redistribute the commercial portion of the code. SugarCRM and SugarExchange products can be deployed as hosted services or on premises. "Customers, not vendors, should have control over source code and deployment options," Roberts told me. SugarCRM Professional edition is priced at $40 per user per month, and the on premises version is $240 per user per year.
Currently, the two-year-old SugarCRM has over 900 customers and 15,000 subscribers, Roberts said, with 30 percent outside the U.S. Roberts estimates that SugarCRM open source user community numbers about 100,000. By comparison, Salesforce.com claims 24,800 customers and 501,000 subscribers across 12 languages.
I asked Roberts to explain what is unique to his company's marketplace, especially compared to salesforce.com's AppExchange. He said that as an open source-oriented platform, SugarExchange offers a refreshing, alternative approach to proprietary platforms, referring to salesforce.com. "There are different value systems in different exchanges," Roberts said. "Ours is open source based, and it attracts developers who want a more clear, open playing field."Roberts went on to say that developers and users are starting to question the proprietary nature of software companies. "The litmus test is whether the core base has an open source license," he said. When I asked more specifically if he was referring to salesforce.com in his anti-proprietary stance, he said, "I don't follow salesforce.com very closely. It's kind of like looking at the past, not the future." Surely, he is dissembling a bit here.
Based on the number of subscribers and customers for companies like salesforce.com, WebEx, NetSuite, RightNow and others selling a new generation of on demand applications, having an open source application core is not an essential ingredient for most enterprises. Open is important, and salesforce.com is expected to open up more of its platform to developers at its Dreamforce conference next week. SugarCRM's hybrid approach--its 25 percent commercial, non-redistributable source code solution--is also a valid approach, and SugarExchange reflects the notion that whether the source is open or closed, developers like the idea of getting paid.