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Salesforce.com Hires Former U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra

Tech visionary joins cloud apps and platform vendor as executive vice president of emerging markets.

Salesforce.com announced Monday that it has hired former U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra to serve as the vendor's executive vice president of emerging markets, a role in which he will be a highly visible face to the market, particularly for major public-sector projects around the globe.

Hired as the nation's first official Chief Information Officer in 2009, Kundra was given a mandate by the Obama Administration to better manage and coordinate $80 billion in annual federal IT spending. Kundra led open-government initiatives such as launching Data.gov, which offers open access to government data, and he created the Federal IT Dashboard, which sheds light on major IT projects, exposing delays and cost overruns. He also championed cloud computing and data center consolidation initiatives aimed at cutting cost and improving security.

"Vivek Kundra is an amazing technology visionary who opened the eyes of millions to the transformational power of cloud computing," said Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com in a statement. "His disruptive leadership is just what the industry needs to accelerate the social enterprise."

[ How should we grade the tenure of Vivek Kundra as U.S. CIO? See Federal IT's Revolving-Door Problem. ]

Kundra will be a high-profile face to potential Salesforce.com customers, focusing on "raising awareness and adoption of cloud computing in emerging markets as well as in the global public sector," according to a Salesforce.com spokesperson. He will also help Salesforce.com set the go to market strategy for emerging markets around the world. Kundra will report to Salesforce.com president of worldwide sales and services Frank Van Veenendaal.

"Salesforce.com is an industry disruptor, helping organizations use the transformative power of technology for change," said Kundra said in a statement.

Kundra left the U.S. CIO post in August to become a fellow at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard. Shortly before leaving government, Kundra said during a congressional hearing that said his naivety about federal IT was his greatest asset in the early going because it allowed him to ask simple questions and think big. And in a 12-page "Relections On Public Service" article published on the Harvard Kennedy School's website, Kundra recalled that on his first day on the job as U.S. CIO, he was handed "a stack of documents with $27 billion worth of technology projects that were years behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget."

Kundra said he knew he had his work cut out for him because while "my neighbor's ten year old could look up the latest stats of his favorite baseball player on his phone on the school bus," he "couldn't get an update on how we were spending billions of taxpayer dollars while at my desk in the White House."

Indeed, Kundra's replacement as U.S. CIO, former Microsoft executive Steven VanRoekel, takes over a broad data-center consolidation plan that, despite progress, still has numerous doubters and critics. VanRoekel also faces a crackdown on wasteful agency spending through a strategy enacted by President Obama himself. VanRoekel recently outlined a mobile technology strategy that emphasizes doing more with less.

VanRoekel will also have to follow through on Kundra's cloud-first policy, which mandates that agencies identify systems that can move to the cloud and consider cloud computing before other options for new IT projects. This policy is obviously a boon to cloud computing vendors including Salesforce.com, as they'll get a shot at projects that might have otherwise been steered to conventional on-premises deployments.

Before serving as U.S. CIO, Kundra was the chief technology officer for Washington D.C. and was previously assistant secretary of commerce and technology for the state of Virginia.

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