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IBM and Sybase are on board with partnerships. Meantime, a large commercial bank now using may lay claim to the largest deployment of hosted CRM.

NEW YORK -- announced separate partnerships Wednesday with IBM and Sybase Inc., as well as trumpeted what it called "the largest deployment of on demand CRM."

SunTrust Banks Inc., Atlanta, will roll out's service to 2,000 users in its commercial business line. The deployment is another indication that hosted CRM, once primarily a small and midsized business phenomenon, may be catching on with larger companies.

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The announcement is significant because it can help be more effective in large implementations where one-size-fits-all software doesn't usually fit the bill, said David Bradshaw, principal analyst with the London-based researcher Ovum.

In fact, Ernie Megazzini, senior vice president of enterprise information services at SunTrust, said that the integration with WebSphere would benefit his organization as it rolls out The company runs WebSphere MQ, he said. The integration will help make applications more extensible and integrate existing systems.

SunTrust is moving from multiple CRM systems that cater to specific regions and markets to a single platform, Megazzini said. It was able to get its first deployment up in 77 days and plans to continue rolling out the service where there is a business case for it, he said.

Lisa B. Applegate, vice president of ACE USA Inc., a Wilmington, Del., global insurance company that is just starting to roll out services, does not have much need for the IBM integration since her company uses Microsoft's .NET platform. Nonetheless, she said that the partnerships with IBM and Sybase give her confidence in the company and more options for the future.

The Sybase deal calls for further integration with Sybase IQ and Sybase Replication Server. That should help customers move data from their applications into local servers for analysis, said Tien Tzuo, senior vice president of marketing at

Taken together, these moves -- which come as readies its initial public stock offering -- signal the San Francisco-based hosted CRM provider's efforts to broaden its appeal, said Mary Wardley, vice president of CRM applications with the Framingham, Mass.-based research firm International Data Corp.

Wardley said Salesforce's product now will be more useful to a broader range of companies. The applications will be more extensible and interoperable, and it is more likely that will have a product that can work in this increasingly diverse environment, she said. was first to the hosted CRM space and now has 9,000 customers but is facing increasing competition. Siebel Systems Inc., the CRM on-premise software leader, has reentered the market via a partnership with IBM and the acquisition of UpShot Corp. also routinely squares off with two other pure-play hosted providers and virtually every vendor catering to SMBs is introducing a hosted option.

Peter Haeffner, an advertising manger with TV Guide, the New York City-based publication, is considering along with a number of other CRM vendors. He likes what he sees from but said that for his needs most of the major CRM vendors seem to offer similar functionality. Haeffner admitted that his needs aren't all that complicated since his company is looking for help selling ad pages, which he called fairly straightforward.

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