SugarCRM is planning a new developer edition of its commercial and open-source customer relationship management software, to come after version 5.0 is released.

Sugar 5.0 is one of the most significant update start-up since its founding in 2004, according to company CEO John Roberts. Around 40 engineers at the 125-person company have been working on the release for the past 18 months, he said.

The vendor plans to package Sugar as a development platform probably under the name Sugar Developer edition. "Sugar has always been a platform," Roberts said. As well as traditional CRM functionality, third-party developers have already created other capabilities based on Sugar including financial and human resources management modules.

SugarCRM unveiled the beta release of Sugar 5.0 yesterday, with the final version of the software due out towards the end of September. As with other Sugar releases, the new version comes in three editions: one open-source and two commercial releases for which the vendor charges for additional functionality and technical support.

Formerly known as Sugar Open Source, the free edition of the software is now called Sugar Community Edition. Another difference is that SCE 5.0 will be licensed under version 3 of the GNU general public license (GPLv3) instead of the vendor's own Sugar Public License, a derivation of the Mozilla Public License.

As before, users can deploy the commercial editions, Professional and Enterprise, on-site or on-demand, or with appliance and stack versions. Customers can move between on-site and on-demand versions of Sugar as they choose, Roberts said.

Sugar 5.0 has a new on-demand architecture for the hosted versions. The architecture is multi-instance, meaning each customer receives their own instance of the software, instead of all customers sharing the same instance, often known as multi-tenancy. The new release also gives users the ability to build custom modules and share them across their Sugar deployments.

SugarCRM hopes that the new architecture will let the company compete more aggressively with its rivals, especially market pioneer While both Oracle and SAP already provide hosted versions of their CRM software, Microsoft is preparing to roll out its Dynamics CRM Live service later this year. SAP is also planning an on-demand applications suite, code named A1S, which includes CRM functionality and is due out early in 2008.

SugarCRM has been in the on-demand market for over two years and 40 percent of the vendor's 2,000 paying customers have opted for that deployment, Roberts said.

Like other commercial open-source startups including database vendor MySQL, SugarCRM harbours ambitions of some day becoming a $1 billion enterprise player. "We've always believed we can be a large enterprise public company," Roberts said, pointing that the CRM market has plenty of room for growth since many companies have yet to invest in the software. SugarCRM is looking to go public in 2008 or 2009, he added.

SugarCRM is already widening its global horizons and is in the process of opening an office in Beijing, Roberts said. To support its on-demand operations, SugarCRM will open a new data centre in Europe later this year.

Sugar 5.1 is due out in December and version 5.5 will likely appear in mid-2008, Roberts said. SugarCRM plans to incorporate more “Web 2.0” collaborative capabilities such as wikis, real-time chat and desktop sharing.