Today, the buzz around cloud computing is continuing to grow as the technology offers the ability for companies, especially startups and small to medium sized businesses, to access applications and platforms that were not affordable in the past as well as increase productivity, flexibility and leverage a number of other benefits.
One company that has been working on the cloud since its inception is SugarCRM (News
). Not only was the company born on the cloud, but it also designed its infrastructure components including its Web site, operation system, programming language and database all for the cloud.
Today, as the cloud computing buzz spreads, the company continues to offer unlimited flexibility and is connecting many different data services for its customers/ partners. Because their solutions are open, they are able to surpass any competitive proprietary vendors.
I recently caught up with Martin Schneider, Director of Product Marketing for SugarCRM to find out more.
Our exchange follows.
Can you provide a brief description of what cloud computing is?
The cloud is essentially the convergence of IT infrastructure, tools and applications - all managed and delivered via the Web. The cloud gives users the ability to consume application features whenever they needed and allows developers to build applications without the need for on-site resources. The cloud also enables IT managers to run complex systems without having to build and maintain data centers of their own.
In short, the cloud simply means being able to offer IT resources (be it infrastructure or applications) to end users, anytime – anywhere.
In addition, the cloud offers “platform on demand” capabilities to developers – meaning that they have access to toolkits and development environments housed in the cloud. Therefore, developers can be up and running with projects, and distribute their work via the Web instantly. This cloud-based model of development can expedite the kinds of community-driven development that has fostered many open source projects in the past.
What do you see as the most significant element of cloud computing?
The cloud is many things. SugarCRM recognizes that the clouds analogous to open source at its roots.
A major aspect of the cloud is that it can enable faster, cheaper innovation when it comes to software. A developer, or team of programmers, can leverage cloud-based development platforms to build new and innovative applications from scratch based on open source components such as PHP. Now, these developers can complete projects without ever meeting - saving time and resources leveraging the cloud.
It is important that the cloud remain an open concept. To further the example I just gave, those leveraging SugarCRM’s cloud components to build a new solution are not locked-in; rather they can move their cloud deployments from private clouds to public clouds. Once this team of developers completes the application, they can then leverage cloud providers such as Amazon or Rackspace (with more options from major players like IBM (News
) and Sun coming soon) to host and deliver that application to end users. In this model, a new offering can be brought to market for very little initial investment. And consumers can deploy this new solution, born in the cloud, on any cloud-based or premise-based platform they choose.
Cloud-based application systems have the potential to be written on more open, standards-based languages and components to foster interoperability and common development communities.
What role does SugarCRM / open source play in the cloud?
Open source and proprietary applications are inevitably linked, and will co-exist because IT managers of businesses will want them to. Just like the hosted vs. on-site argument, there never has been, nor ever will be, a one-size-fits-all philosophy when it comes to software. And it’s the responsibility of vendors, and in their best interest, to ensure that’s the case with their product offerings.
At the same time, as commercial open source applications continue to mature and proliferate, the “volunteer” nature of community open source projects (cited by some as a weakness for open source adoption within enterprises), will be supplemented by continued assistance and documented successes by the vendors.
As the number and variety of businesses that are adopting these hybrid environments increase, the ease and sophistication of integrating open source with proprietary-based solutions will only improve. It’s just a matter of time.
What benefits does SugarCRM provide for providers operating in cloud environments?
SugarCRM supports applications running in every cloud environment. SugarCRM enables companies, i.e. Tata Communications (News
), to control its systems based on the Sugar platform. Companies leveraging SugarCRM’s cloud components are not locked-in and they can move their cloud deployments from private clouds to public clouds.
SugarCRM believes in the maturation of the Internet to a cloud infrastructure, where customers can not only run applications in the cloud, but also have a choice of cloud providers. In an open cloud model from SugarCRM, developers can leverage toolkits based on the central project, work on their own extensions “in the cloud” and distribute those alterations easily through online exchanges and other cloud-based repositories. This provides a great advantage and choice to customers in terms of providing more control over systems architecture, in addition to price control.
What does SugarCRM's Data Center Edition offer for those in the cloud?
To cater to a company’s specific needs, SugarCRM offers a product called Data Center Edition. This edition is used by channel partners to run their own cloud instances in different countries around the world, allowing them to customize and run Sugar in the cloud themselves.
The partner can create, manage and monitor cross-instance reporting of entirely different versions of SugarCRM. The Data Center Edition provides great visibility and drives out a lot of the complexity and costs of offering SaaS (News
). In essence, Data Center Edition enables Sugar partners to become SaaS or cloud providers in their own right, managing applications directly for consumers, not as reseller middlemen with no control over a proprietary, rigid SaaS offering.
How important is it for your partners to be able to run Sugar anywhere in the cloud?
Companies want good prices, flexibility, control, access, portability and less risk. If taken at its truest form, cloud computing is about complete transparency, not just in terms of which cloud provider to choose from, but also in terms of developers. Our partners and developers should be able to interact with “the cloud,” to do business with it, and without having to get on the phone with a sales person, or submit a help ticket to a vendor.
The customer should be able to truly get on-demand, “cloud” computing when they demand, whenever they demand, and how they demand it. SugarCRM is seeing an emergence of data sites. This is not only from big corporations, but companies doing a lot of work in a certain vertical. As a result they have started collecting a lot of useful data about that industry, and are getting into the data information services game. As an open source provider, SugarCRM is always going to embrace software instance a super-easy connection to these different data providers.
If companies really want a competitive advantage, they must have the best information possible. It’s really in a company’s best interest to work with any data provider that makes sense for their strategy.
Stefania Viscusi is an assignment editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Stefania’s articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi