Has Salesforce.com Graduated To The IT Big Leagues? - InformationWeek
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Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Has Salesforce.com Graduated To The IT Big Leagues?

Potential builds for Benioff's blend of CRM, collaboration, social-savvy marketing, app platform, cloud infrastructure, and services.

Partner and Custom Apps

Beyond its SaaS apps and support for a social enterprise, the other pillar of Salesforce.com's growth plan is the platform itself. The company spent the second day of Dreamforce highlighting the Force.com development platform and Database.com database infrastructure; a Ruby- and Java-friendly Heroku app platform built on Force.com; and its growing ties with systems integrators and third-party software developers.

The platform stats are pretty compelling: more than 400,000 applications built on Force.com and Heroku; more than 100,000 customers running on Database.com; more than 1,250 substantial applications with more than 1 million installs from the company's AppExchange.

Once again there were plenty of customers and partners on hand to help tell the story. Facebook's CIO, Tim Campos, talked about the benefits of building on Force.com, which, he said, powers the majority of its SaaS-based back-office infrastructure. Seesmic CEO Loic Le Meur demonstrated a mobile CRM app running on Database.com. In a video about the Facebook movie rental app it built for Warner Brothers, development firm Milyoni testified to the rapid-app-development and high-scalability capabilities of the Heroku platform.

Former Oracle presidents Ray Lane and Charles Phillips were on hand representing the independent software developer community. Lane was introduced along with Sandra Kurtzig, CEO of the SaaS startup Kenandy, which has built manufacturing inventory control, engineering management, purchasing, production, and resource-management applications on the Force.com platform. Kenandy is being funded primarily by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, where Lane's a managing partner.

Now CEO at enterprise applications vendor Infor, Phillips was interviewed by Benioff about plans to build multiple native Force.com applications starting with three: InForce Everywhere for bringing Infor data into Salesforce; InForce Order Management, a quote, order, and proposal management app; and InForce Marketing, which will use the Infor CRM Epiphany recommendation engine for SaaS-based marketing automation.

Infor also announced that Salesforce.com has made an undisclosed investment the company, which is interesting given that the two firms are on about equal footing, with about $2 billion in annual revenue. Could that give Salesforce a say or even an upper hand in any future acquisition of Infor?

ERP vendor Workday and travel-and-entertainment reporting firm Concur also announced deeper ties with Salesforce.com last week. Sizing up the partner potential, Benioff at one point quipped, "I wish Oracle had more former presidents running software companies because they want to be on this train, and we want them onboard." (Workday's founding execs hail from PeopleSoft, which Oracle bought.)

Is It Enough?

The question remains, does Salesforce.com now have enough going for it to become a cornerstone of the IT industry? One thing certain is that more acquisitions are in the company's future. The Kenandy, Infor, and Workday announcements suggest to me that it won't be in the area of ERP. Benioff also waved off speculation that Salesforce is choosing sides in the marketing automation arena, where Eloqua (which is gearing up for IPO) and Marketo are both partners. Salesforce intends to extend its cloud-based marketing services beyond Radian6, Benioff said, but he hinted it will do so organically.

The social-enterprise vision is the focus for now, and unless the social-networking bubble bursts, it looks like a promising path. Benioff described the need to build a social-savvy business and database as a fundamental shift that will catch many companies and CIOs by surprise.

"The vast majority have no idea what we're talking about with the social enterprise, and they don't want to know," he acknowledged. "These CEOs and CIOs will be forced out of their jobs because they have not transformed. Their growth will not accelerate, and they will not know why, but the shareholders will eventually create that reality."

In that universe -- should it come to pass -- Salesforce.com will have arrived at the apex of IT.

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