Because of his experiences at the dawn of open source, Larry Augustin has always viewed himself as a practical, hard-headed businessman.
The failure of VA Linux to launch obscured our view of that image but at SugarCRM he is making certain we know it's front and center.
Sugar's sniping at Salesforce.com is basic target marketing. Aim at what you want to be, make yourself David to their Goliath, but let that be the start of your strategy, not an end in itself. It's like George Carlin's 7 dirty words -- it gets you attention but you need an act to back it up.
Augustin's act is to emulate Salesforce's delivery, only with powerful allies. Like Microsoft. A founder of open source committing resources to a Microsoft release, the Azure cloud? As Sarah Palin would say, you betcha.
Playing with Microsoft makes SugarCRM a player head-to-head with Salesforce. It substantiates the marketing. It puts some there, there. It scales SugarCRM up, makes it a player. The fact that it helps Microsoft is incidental. If an ally helps you, you help an ally.
Then there's a third leg to the triad, his deal with Tata to bring CRM as SaaS to India. India is a big market. Tata has major resources. India is a competitive market. You get better by playing in such markets. Your software gets better by having allies like Tata helping it move forward.
There is what Will Ferrell's George W. Bush would call "strategery" in all this. The alliances help him match deeds to words. The SugarCRM slogan on its home page, "the cloud is open," describes this pretty well.
Pretty soon we'll forget all about SugarCRM's badgeware past and start rooting for it, as the scrappy underdog next to Salesforce, never mind its alliances with Microsoft and Tata. This is smart, basic, strategic thinking. It's how real executives earn the big money.
Of course, having just a vision's no solution, everything depends on execution. Larry Augustin is less interested in being part of open source's past than its future.