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10/30/2008
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Dell, Facebook, And Google Join Dreamforce Love Fest

The number of technology vendors involved in Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference next week is impressive. Salesforce is nowhere the size of Oracle or Microsoft, but it undoubtedly has a strong "partner ecosystem," as the vendors like to say. Michael Dell will be there, plus Google and Facebook execs, and many small software companies hawking their wares. So what's behind the rally behind Salesforce.com?

The number of technology vendors involved in Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference next week is impressive. Salesforce is nowhere the size of Oracle or Microsoft, but it undoubtedly has a strong "partner ecosystem," as the vendors like to say. Michael Dell will be there, plus Google and Facebook execs, and many small software companies hawking their wares. So what's behind the rally behind Salesforce.com?Sure, Salesforce.com has offered up developers its Force.com platform to build and run their own SaaS apps, which has segued into 800 partner-developed apps available through the Salesforce.com AppExchange. But the bulk of its $1 billion a year in revenue? Still CRM/salesforce automation subscriptions.

I asked the opinion of Ron Papas, the general manager of Informatica On Demand, on the Salesforce.com love fest. Informatica, best known for data integration software for building data warehouses -- and a sizable software company in its own right, with $450 million in annual sales -- has built a whole new software integration service for loading, cleansing, and synchronizing data in Salesforce.com. But all this for a CRM software service?

Papas's view is that CRM is just a launch pad to other types of SaaS applications that users will find on AppExchange. "As people start to understand SaaS by using CRM, they'll say I wish I can do this with my other app," Papas said. And even though most of the apps in AppExchange are add-ons to Salesforce, Papas thinks that's starting to change, too. "I do see a lot of ISVs investing in the Force.com platform. Instead of going off and hosting and figuring out how to protect their own app and turn it into a multitenant SaaS app, they're taking [Salesforce.com's] building blocks as a faster way to go to market."

He adds that Salesforce is "ahead of the curve" on this compared with Microsoft and other vendors. Papas has clearly drunk the Kool-Aid -- everything he says is pretty consistent with Salesforce.com's own dogma. But just how successful is the Force.com/AppExchange division? Hard to know, since Salesforce.com refuses to break out the numbers in its fiscal earnings report or discuss them. But heck, for a not-quite-large on-demand software company, there's a lot of lovin' going around in the vendor community.

Here are a few of the Dreamforce-related announcements Monday:

• Informatica is offering a Web-based data synchronization service between Salesforce.com and on-site applications or databases, starting at $1,000 per month per integration.

• Bluewolf is offering an add-on to Salesforce.com's CRM Ideas application, called bw.Connect, available through the AppExchange. It's designed to let organizations tie comments submitted via Salesforce CRM Ideas back into Salesforce CRM at the contact record, "closing the loop on community feedback." It also lets customer submit input by e-mail, eliminating the need to log in.

• QlikTech is getting a good amount of buzz in the business intelligence software space and will be demonstrating QlikView associative analysis, available on the AppExchange. The app gives users a BI view of Salesforce.com data, letting them measure the pipeline across the sales cycle, analyze customer service requests, and identify cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

• Magic Software will demo at Dreamforce an upgraded version of its iBOLT Special Edition for Salesforce.com integration suite. It includes a new SDK adaptor to help ISVs transform applications into Web-friendly ones based on a services-oriented architecture, a visual data mapping feature, a replicator for backing up Salesforce.com data to databases, and a connector for Lotus Notes.

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