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 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.
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.