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Summary:

Maybe Larry Ellison was right — maybe cloud computing has been so overhyped that the term now applies to pretty much anything. A perfect example: Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce event. After riding the SasS wave to a market capitalization of $3.7 billion, it seems co-founder and CEO Marc […]

2997642929_37b8bc3638_mMaybe Larry Ellison was right — maybe cloud computing has been so overhyped that the term now applies to pretty much anything. A perfect example: Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce event. After riding the SasS wave to a market capitalization of $3.7 billion, it seems co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff and his minions have jumped on the cloud computing bandwagon. Salesforce.com is now calling itself a cloud computing company. And you shouldn’t expect any less from Benioff, the master marketer. On Monday, attendees of the event currently in progress at the Moscone Center in San Francisco were greeted with giant cloud-shaped balloons. During Benioff’s keynote, the hall was filled with mist. In fact, Benioff said the word “cloud” so many times that at one point I had to check if I was still on terra firma.

Joking aside, the fact remains that Benioff has created something of a movement with Salesforce.com’s software and more recently, its platform. Don’t get me wrong, Dreamforce is no OracleWorld just yet. But it will be.

The proof could be found away from Benioff’s blustery speech, in the Expo hall, where dozens of companies were showing off wares based on Salesforce’s Force.com platform. I ran into Jeff Bonforte and Matt Brezina of Xobni at the show, which makes me wonder if they’re developing something new for the Force.com environment, too.

By specifically targeting the enterprise, Salesforce.com is leveraging its billing relationships with some million-odd subscribers and opening up that opportunity to tiny startups, as co-founder Parker Harris explained at our Structure conference earlier this year. (Read more in the company’s press release.)

Think of this as platform specialization – or as Benioff would like you to believe – cloud specialization. Either way, I think they are taking the right approach. Force.com is being integrated with Amazon Web Services and Facebook’s social networking platform. And of course, we all know how tight Salesforce.com’s relationship is with Google.

Here is how a theoretical web application could tap into these various services:

  • Amazon Web Services: Host (or the computer, in traditional desktop terms).
  • Force.com: Subscriber relationships and a payment/billing system, programming environment (the operating system, in traditional desktop terms).
  • Facebook: Another authentication system (Facebook Connect).
  • Google/Facebook: Sources of data and application environments where our theoretical application can interface with end users.

We outline our way of thinking about the cloud in our Cloud Computing Briefing. I have included an image from that briefing to help illustrate the cloud stack more clearly.

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While these seem like great moves for Force.com, there are questions as to how it would all translate into dollar and cents. In other words, if Salesforce.com is looking to use this to move its shares higher in the short term, then it could be sorely disappointed. But in the long term, this is the right move for the company.

Image courtesy of Mountjoy via Flickr.

  1. I saw a presentation on Force.com at Web 2.0 in NY on Sept. 17th. Since then I have had an issue with logging on to view the getting started guides. Till this day I still have not been able to log on. I have a support log opened with SalesForce.com..still no resolution. I received an email last week saying that it should be fixed shortly as it is a known issue….still nothing.

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  2. Translating their platforms into dollars and sense is a too-frequent afterthought for platform companies.

    Remind me to have a cyanide capsule installed in one of my molars just in case anyone ever suggests that my company is the next Oracle.

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  3. Uck. Dollars and *cents*.

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  4. @jeffrey…dollars and sense are what is missing from silicon valley so your slip might have been Freudian :-). anyway marc “the mouth” benioff wants to be oracle. he just won’t admit to it!

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  5. Didn’t SalesForce.com basically originate from people leaving Oracle? I don’t think they want to be Oracle. I think they already were Oracle, and just wouldn’t admit to it (typically, unless someone asks by what authority are they doing such outlandish things with their data, and then they can say “Well, we used to help run Oracle…”).

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  6. 2 problems with Marc’s Cloudy vision…

    1 – the value prop of cloud computing is in large part that of outsourcing IT hassles and costs. A business that outsources more and more of their IT still needs someone to make things work RIGHT NOW when it matters. The pricing model for SaaS, Cloud, etc. doesn’t provide for that sort of support.

    2 – Salesforce.com’s customer support keeps getting worse and worse.

    Its a viscous cycle… the more success they have in the cloud, the less they can afford to support their existing customers the way they need to be supported.

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  7. [...] opportunity in its enterprise infrastructure and service business, Senior VP Paul Bell said at the Dreamforce conference today. He noted that Web 2.0, social-networking companies and other firms that are adding users [...]

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  8. What’s the pricing scheme?

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  9. [...] NEWSFACTOR, eWeek, Digital Daily, Enterprise Anti-matter, GigaOM, Irregular Enterprise, TechFlash, Startup Chatter and Mercury News November 4, 2008 | jason | [...]

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  10. @Craig, i agree with your observations. we had the same support experience with another cloud environment (Amazon EC). However, if an enterprise uses a mix of in-house and cloud computing, I think it can have benefits.

    my comments at http://www.commentino.com/orim

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