SugarCRM, NetSuite Get Boost From BT Deal

BT said Tuesday it will sell enterprise software products from NetSuite and SugarCRM to its small and medium-sized business (SMB) customers.

NetSuite is available now, while SugarCRM will be "in the near future," according to BT.

SugarCRM is an open-source CRM (customer relationship management) offering available in on-premise and hosted forms. NetSuite sells an on-demand ERP (enterprise resource planning) suite.

NetSuite has been available in Europe, the Middle East and Africa since 2002, but the BT deal represents the company's first "strategic partnership" geared toward driving business in that region, according to a spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, one observer focused on SugarCRM's role in the pact.

"It's deals like this that can really take open source software to the masses," noted 451 Group analyst Matthew Aslett, in a blog postTuesday.

Another 451 Group analyst, China Martens, said via e-mail Tuesday that the deal is "an important validation for SugarCRM as it builds up a presence in Europe. Given BT's operations elsewhere in the world, particularly Asia and Africa, we wonder how the relationship may be extended over time."

"On the other hand, this is still SMB -- SugarCRM's core market -- and the company does nurse enterprise ambitions," she added. "The relationship with BT will definitely help SugarCRM get more notice in the U.K., but probably not from enterprises."

BT plans to build out a broader set of business applications, saying it is looking at products from other vendors and will make additional announcements soon. Martens said she expects the telecom to form a pact with Salesforce.

Another industry observer echoed Martens, calling the agreement "a major validation for both SugarCRM and Netsuite," but also cited its significance for BT.

The telecom "is in a period of surprisingly agile innovation," said James Governor, a UK-based analyst with Redmonk. "It's trying a lot of things out and being prepared to fast fail. .... Could BT break out as the first real net-savvy telco? That is, the first telco of the 21st century? Its beginning to look like it."

BT could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

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