Open Source Software Up the Stack

Dennis Byron

Talking with SplendidCRM

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As part of a continuing series of “meeting� with people in OSS development community, I spoke with Paul Rony of SplendidCRM, RTP, NC, on April 3. Paul is a true open source software (OSS) entrepreneur with a twist. He embraces the “free as in speech, not beer� OSS code of conduct and, like all good ‘hackers,’ seems to be totally enjoying his effort to build a better customer relationship management (CRM) mousetrap just for the fun of building it. But he doesn’t enjoy working with PHP, really feels Java failed to deliver on its write once/run anywhere promise, and only begrudgingly works with Linux. Paul is a rare breed in the OSS community: he is a Microsoft bigot.

SplendidCRM Software provides a Microsoft-centric SugarCRM knock-off. It is derived from Sugar’s images and icons, some of its HTML code and Javascript, and the SugarCRM stylesheet. The knock-off claim is specific and intentional. (NOTE: I have not used either product so I cannot verify the second half of that claim. I can confirm its Windows centricity. If some reader who uses SugarCRM takes a look and finds the “SugarCRM knockoff� part of the SplendidCRM claim inaccurate, please send in a correction.) SplendidCRM adheres to the SugarCRM license and OSS concept and provides an OSS edition which can be downloaded from the SplendidCRM site at no charge. Only Windows Server 2003, Windows 2000 Server or Windows XP, Internet Information Server (IIS), a 1GHz processor with 256 Mb RAM and 300 Mb of hard disk space are required. A professional edition with a strong SQL tie-in, supporting SQL Server, Oracle 9i or 10G, IBM DB/2, and/or MySQL is available for a fee.

Despite his overall feelings for the LAMP stack and derivatives, Paul does admire the MySQL business model and is trying to imitate it. On March 16, SplendidCRM made its platform available to enterprise software system integrators under a choice of Free-Runtime and Free-Hosting Licenses. Note that Paul thinks of his product as an integration/business process platform more than an application. He feels all business process management is rightfully coalescing around the front office application. SplendidCRM’s license to system integrators includes two distribution methods: a runtime license, enabling integrators to sell the application via CD or download; and a hosted, on-demand license letting the integrator use the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model.

Although I agree with the integration platform approach, the lack of MRP and similar manufacturing business process support means SplendidCRM as a platform is more aimed at services industries and organizations currently. However, the fact that it was built on Microsoft’s infrastructure with Microsoft tools means companies of any industry that are also Microsoft bigots and can get right in and mix it up with the product very quickly, adding their own industry-centric add-ons and tie-ins. SplendidCRM Open-Source and SplendidCRM Professional have identical features, but the Professional version includes the SQL source code which is typically needed when integrating. Also included in the Professional version is the source code for the SplendidCRM Plug-in for Outlook 2003. However, the Outlook 2003 plug-in is available for a fee for open source edition users. The code can run on SUSE Linux through its Mono layer, but as Paul implied more than once, “Why would you want to?�

The aversion to the LAMP stack and fondness for the .NET stack aside, SplendidCRM has a couple of major problems going forward. It needs a community to exercise the platform and build it out. Although as developers, the SplendidCRM founders think in terms of what MySQL is doing—as noted above—they may want to model themselves more after what Compiere is doing, as discussed in this space last month. But SplendidCRM has a bigger challenge than Compiere. Compiere is taking on SAP and the like but at least it is using OSS tools rather than NetWeaver and the equivalents. SplendidCRM, although it seems to position itself against SugarCRM, is really taking on that little company in Redmond in the CRM application arena using that little company’s crown jewels.

I’m going to watch this OSS process with interest.

Dennis Byron’s blog on open source software: A longtime market research analyst follows what “the movement� means to business integration—in applications, infrastructure, as services, as architecture and as functionality.

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