SugarCRM integrates the open source Lucene search engine into the latest version of its software to offer users a Google-like search experience. An executive says open source figures strongly into the company’s growth.

SugarCRM’s open source roots are showing at its SugarCon conference, taking place this week in San Francisco. The agenda was created based on attendee suggestions and online voting, and the event will wrap in “unconference” style with a session around a whiteboard in which attendees will be invited to contribute ideas for next year’s event.

An open source ethos permeates the company, with Chief Marketing Officer Nick Halsey crediting open source, in part, for helping SugarCRM attain 10 quarters of strong growth. In the first quarter of 2012, billings grew 118 percent over 2011’s first quarter.

“Our growth has accelerated as we’ve gotten larger,” Halsey said. “We became cash flow positive in the fourth quarter of 2010, so we’ve achieved growth without burning through a lot of venture money.” The company’s venture partners, including New Enterprise Associates (NEA), invested an additional $33 million in SugarCRM earlier this month.

Some 15 percent of SugarCRM’s core code is open source and thousands of developers participate in its community, providing Q&A, testing and support. “Many user questions are answered on our forums before our support team even sees them,” Halsey said. Community members have helped translate documentation into 80 languages so it was only “an incremental effort” for Sugar to begin providing support in 26 of those languages.

Some 80,000 organizations around the world use Sugar’s free Community Edition, with some of them upgrading to the Enterprise Edition, and SugarCRM is sold through a network of 375-plus resellers, so the company enjoys lower sales and marketing costs than its competitors. It’s a “very efficient model from R&D all the way through distribution,” Halsey said.

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