Salesforce.com Seeks Foothold Throughout The Enterprise
Identity, mobile, and social networking capabilities are key to Salesforce's plan to move beyond sales and marketing, deep into enterprise operations.
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Salesforce.com is not trying to replace every application in the enterprise with one of its own. On the other hand, don't be surprised to one day find many enterprise applications turn to a Salesforce.com clearinghouse to get identity management, mobile, and social networking capabilities.
What was clear at Dreamforce, the big Salesforce.com show in San Francisco this week, is that Salesforce, at least this year, will be satisfied if its core services and its Force.com platform achieve that much.
Doing so would mean a Salesforce.com account would no longer be reserved for the representatives of marketing and sales departments at a company. Many employees, including users of SAP, Oracle PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards, or E-Business applications, or even custom, in-house applications, would have their identity and access privileges granted by the Salesforce system.
Salesforce might end up in that position because social networking is becoming a component that cuts across a broad swath of applications, from human resources to manufacturing to CRM, judging by Dreamforce guest speakers this week from GE, Wells Fargo, Rossignol, Kimberley-Clark, Comcast, Macy's, and Nissan.
What's more, Salesforce co-founder and senior VP for technology Parker Harris demonstrated the new Identity service Thursday afternoon to an audience of 2,000 attending his Salesforce Platform keynote. Through Identity, end users may access a set of back office applications or mobile applications through a single sign-on into a Salesforce account.
Identity is a major addition to Saleforce's core platform. Single sign-on is a longstanding but elusive goal at many companies, which end up with diverse applications, each requiring a separate login. If they can get single sign-on through the Salesforce cloud, it becomes a possible channel for adding users to the Salesforce application set.
Salesforce's Identity service is a federated identity management system. It's capable of not simply contacting different identity management systems but uploading their contents on individuals into a single, central identity system. "We don't just use other directories. We build a new, central identity management directory," said Andrew Leigh, director of Salesforce Platform, in an interview following Harris' keynote. The Identity service imports identities from any LDAP directory, Microsoft Active Directory, or any other standards-based directory service and then serves as a central clearinghouse for a broad set of applications, he said.
In addition, single sign-on that provides access to both back-office and mobile applications would appeal to many white-collar workers who change workspaces over the course of the day. While Salesforce has sought to expand its reach beyond salesforce automation to marketing and human resources, Identity gives IT managers a reason to adopt a Salesforce service as a solution to the single sign-on problem, and have many different types of white-collar workers use a Salesforce account to gain access to enterprise applications.
The Identity service is based on SAML (security assertion markup language) 2.0, a language produced by the OASIS standards group.
Another broadening role for Salesforce in the enterprise is through its previously announced Touch platform. Touch is aimed at providing user access to standard applications through mobile devices. It was demonstrated supplying Service Cloud customer relationship services to a Nissan support desk representative named Sam. David Mingle, senior director of customer loyalty at Nissan, illustrated during a keynote on the Service Cloud how Sam could learn from social media that a driver of a Nissan all-electric Leaf vehicle was looking for a way to repair a cracked windshield.
Sam would identify a Nissan dealer in the driver's neighborhood, then contact the driver to ask if he can make an appointment for the repair. While doing so, he would note that the driver is due for a 10,000 mile tire rotation and, by the way, did she wish to renew her lease on the car, which expires in 62 days, while at the dealership? The scenario demonstrated future capabilities, because Touch doesn't yet connect Salesforce applications to the iPhone, cited in this case as the driver's handheld device. But it does work with the Apple iPad, and is slated to work with Android and iPhone in the near future.
The Canvas, a new service of the Force.com development platform, lets enterprise developers take an existing Web application and make it available through the Salesforce user interface, where Salesforce CRM application data and other Force.com services can be accessed. Developers may also use Canvas in developing custom Java or Ruby applications that need to access Force.com services, such as the collaborative Chatter service.
Identity management, cross application connections, mobile application access--"you don't have to worry about any of those things. They're all in the (Force.com) platform," Parker told the group.
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