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Microsoft Adds Some Sugar To Windows

Who doesn't like sugar? Especially on Valentine's Day?

Microsoft and open source CRM vendor SugarCRM are collaborating in a technical partnership that will see a new Windows version of SugarCRM released under a Microsoft Shared Source license. The move may well be a herald of things to come, as Microsoft attempts to attract open source applications to its platform.

SugarCRM and Microsoft are expected to collaborate on improved support for Microsoft's Web server Internet Information Services (IIS), in addition to Active Directory and SQL Server. The new support will manifest itself in a new Microsoft Windows distribution of SugarCRM 4.5 that is set to debut in May or June. Version 4.0 was released in December 2005.

The Windows optimized version is not likely to fall on "deaf ears," either. Some 35 percent of SugarCRM's users are already deploying the open source application on a Windows platform. John Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer of SugarCRM, commented that SQL server is not a database that is currently supported, but that Sugar has had a lot of requests for it.

"The feedback we've gotten is that there is a lot of interest in taking more advantage of the Windows platform," Roberts told internetnews.com.

SugarCRM is also going to take advantage of Microsoft's Community Shared Source License. The Microsoft Community License is part of a new simplification of Microsoft's shared source strategy, allowing developers and users relatively open access to the code.

The regular open source version of SugarCRM will continue to be licensed under the SugarCRM public license (SPL), which is based on the Mozilla Public License.

"What we're doing is introducing a new distribution, one that is licensed under Microsoft shared source and optimized for the Windows platform," Roberts said. "It is a new offering, giving our customers and community a choice about what Sugar is right for them."

Robert noted that he's not "super religious" about particular licenses, and thinks that the Microsoft community licenses is an "excellent license."

"It represents the same ideals in which we license Sugar open source today, which is full source code, the ability to create derived works and royalty-free redistribution," "Roberts said.

Add-on modules for SugarCRM open source will also work with the Windows optimized version. Roberts explained that the way the core product is architected with a module loader, it's easy for developer to write modules. Modules will work with either distribution, because it's all derived from the same source code tree.

The new technical collaboration between Microsoft and SugarCRM came about partially due to the efforts of Bill Hilf, Microsoft's director of technical platform strategy.

"My role is to really think about open source software across the board at Microsoft," Hilf told internetnews.com. "Certainly SugarCRM was on the radar of people I wanted to talk to. So I approached John and his team and just started a conversation."

"Quite honestly, when I knocked on the door, I had no idea how it would turn out," Hilf continued. "I didn't come in the door saying, 'Here's what we got to do if you want to party with us.' It was more, 'Let's talk about how our different businesses work, and see if there are areas that we have opportunity together.'"

It's all about the platform, the Microsoft Platform, that is.

Hilf noted that the success of Microsoft is Dependant on people building on its Platform, and that's remained consistent since Microsoft's inception.

"The characteristic that is new is the commercial open source element," Hilf said.

Microsoft did a similar collaboration with Jboss last year, in what was regarded as Microsoft's first official foray into working with an open source vendor.

"I really look at these as great application development companies that are taking advantage of our platform, regardless of how they developed or licensed their software," Hilf said.