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CRM vendors begin testing the Linux waters

Another CRM provider announced its plans for Linux support today. While Linux-based CRM implementations seem to be few and far between, larger businesses are beginning to give open source a closer look.

E.piphany Inc. has joined the ranks of CRM vendors pledging support for the Linux operating system, answering what now seems to be a curiosity about running customer relationship software on an open source platform.

The San Mateo, Calif.-based company said today it would offer Linux supported CRM by the end of the year through a partnership with Red Hat Inc. in Raleigh, N.C.

Interest in Linux is ramping up in the enterprise thanks to the potential cost savings, said Bill Roth, the E.piphany's chief technology evangelist.

Across the CRM marketplace, vendors are beginning to support Linux, even if they're not necessarily selling Linux-based software by the truckload.

"We're certainly hearing the double check, 'You do run on Linux, right? You're going to support me when I move to Linux, right?'" said Kevin Rickson, director of global solutions marketing for Germany's SAP AG. "[Customers] are looking to see whether these systems are going to be viable in the long term."

CRM, with its checkered history for generating ROI, has a greater need to justify its cost, and the potential savings make Linux an attractive option, Rickson said. Running sales force automation applications on Linux isn't taking off, but Rickson said Linux has seen some traction with desktops in the contact center.

A few years ago every company had to have a strategy around Y2K. Now every CIO knows they have to have a strategy around Linux.
David Sayed, product marketing manager, PeopleSoft,

SAP has been offering its mySAP Business Suite on Linux since the end of 1999. According to a SAP spokesman, 10% of SAP's customers are looking into running their SAP apps on Linux.

At this point, vendors need to be able articulate their plans for Linux, said Scott Nelson, vice president and distinguished analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.

"It's similar to Web services, where a lot of companies aren't ready to do Web services but they want to hear a Web services story," Nelson said. "I want to hear what the [Linux] plans are, see it in the product road map, and see what resources are being devoted to it."

While interest in Linux for CRM first surfaced a few years ago, in the past year and half some companies have begun running mission-critical applications on the open source operating system, said David Sayed, technology product marketing manager for Pleasanton, Calif.-based PeopleSoft.

"What we're seeing is an evolutionary approach," Sayed said. "We haven't seen a replacement [of Windows]. We've seen midmarket to very large companies that have a strategy of wanting to deploy new applications on Linux. A few years ago, every company had to have a strategy around Y2K. Now every CIO knows they have to have a strategy around Linux."

PeopleSoft supports Linux for its Enterprise line of software and has pledged Linux support for the next version of its midmarket applications, called EnterpriseOne.

E.piphany's Roth said U.S. financial firms and European manufacturers have shown the most interest in Linux.

Yet, for all the proclaimed interest, none of these vendors could produce a customer willing to talk about their Linux and CRM experience. That is likely because they haven't notched that many sales, Nelson said. He said CRM deployments on Linux should become more prevalent by 2005.


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