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11/21/2013
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Salesforce's 'Superpod': Only For Giants

Turns out the HP-powered "Superpod" is consistent with Salesforce.com's public cloud. But it's not something that many customers will use.

When Salesforce.com announced the Salesforce Superpod in a strategic alliance with HP, it wasn't kidding when it said it would be for "the world's largest enterprises."

Despite speculation to the contrary, now we know that the Superpod, which is designed to give big organizations a dedicated instance of Salesforce.com application services, is consistent with the company's existing public-cloud, multitenant model. That much was revealed by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff in a Q&A session with press and analysts this week at Dreamforce. He also underscored that Salesforce Superpod will be a highly selective offering open only to the very largest organizations -- on the scale of the US government or HP, for example.

The Superpod is based on the design of 15 compute pods that Salesforce has distributed across its global datacenters to run its entire operation. Each pod serves tens of thousands of customers with multitenant services. The Superpod came about because "we've had large customers saying they want their own pod," Benioff explained. HP was among those customers, and the partnership came about as a way to build pods using HP hardware and software.

[Want more on the big announcements from Dreamforce 2013? Read Salesforce.com's Salesforce1 Platform: A Closer Look.]

Other than using HP technology, Superpods are identical to Salesforce.com's existing pods, Benioff insists, and he says these large customers are keen on delivering the same sort of multitenant services. The US government gained a dedicated instance of Salesforce.com this summer, for example, and multitenancy serves it well in serving separate agencies such as the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services. (We don't know what brand of pod the government is using.)

The Superpod offering is designed for security- and governance-minded organizations that want dedicated connections and guaranteed data residency. "A global CIO can say, 'I know that this hardware is in this country on this network in this datacenter, and I'm going to be able to audit it and look at it and encrypt it specifically the way I want," Benioff said.

The Superpods are maintained by Salesforce, and the applications and services are updated on the same cycle as all other pods, Benioff insisted. He didn't offer any details on extra measures of flexibility or control (if there are any), but he did reiterate that this is an offering for the largest of large organizations.

"For the vast majority of customers, this is not appropriate," he said. "But there are customers who want to go to another level."

As for the possibility of letting smaller customers run Superpods on premises? Benioff shut the door. "We're not going to shoot servers out to customers, because that really is not our model."

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Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/21/2013 | 2:00:05 PM
Re: Doing The Math
So no mini-pods for the midsize enterprise or nonprofit crowd? Hmm. Maybe later.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2013 | 1:31:32 PM
Re: Multi-tenant, or just a big single tenant?
Good point, I am not totally convinced that a Superpod is more secure then the public Cloud (and if done right, I am normally of the view that the public Cloud is more safe then in-house) however, I do realize that a Superpod can help to meet regulations and the price to pay for meeting these regulations are inactivity and low utilization during holidays etc.

What about the foreign markets? Do you feel that governments around the world will also line up to buy Superpod?

 
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2013 | 1:13:57 PM
Re: Doing The Math
Exactly, as the math speaks for itself. On average 40,000 customers per pod, gives each customer the benefits of being on a system that has tapped into the benefits of economies of scale. Next if an organization is equivalent to 40,000 customers then sure buy a Superpod, but if it is far behind that scale then buying a Superpod can be viewed as "because the government has one, I want one" which does not fit into any proper model. 
cbabcock
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cbabcock,
User Rank: Strategist
11/21/2013 | 12:36:49 PM
Multi-tenant, or just a big single tenant?
That's a good clarification of the announcement, Doug. Marc Benioff is correct when he says a large customer, such as the U.S. government, will have many users. For such a large customer, Salesforce can establish a "pod," which at one time referred to a standard shipping container crammed full of servers, disks and switching gear. It was a pod because it was an independent unit, it had its power supply and you plugged it in and all the servers lit up. Today, Benioff is probably referring to a section of a data center that has its own power supply and secure communications links, or even a location purpose built for a large customer. I can't tell for sure. One place where the integrity of the terminology seems to be slipping is multi-tenant. Yes, the U.S. government has many users and many users will be found on a single SaaS application of a "SuperPod." But the U.S. government per se is a single tenant. If you combined retailers with the U.S. government, then you would have multi-tenants with different use patterns. Retail is extremely active around the holidays when government workers get extended holidays. Multi-tenancy leads to higher overall utliization in the cloud, etc. Salesforce.com's embrace of Oracle seems to have mysteriously lead to a dilution of its former pioneering cloud definitions. What you might be able to defend with multiple agency use by the U.S.government begins to look more like single tenancy when you get to HP and other single tenant, albeit large, users.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
11/21/2013 | 12:03:28 PM
Doing The Math
Benioff talked about "care, maintenance and white-glove treatment," but he didn't get into a lot of details about the capacity of a Superpod. At last count I think Saleforce had more than 600,000 customers across 15 pods. That's 40,000 per pod, though it's surely the case that one pod might handle 100,000 SMBs where another might handle 5,000 large enterprises.

There was no talk of making fractions of Superpods available and you get the sense that Salesforce really wants to keep this to a selective offering. The more variation you introduce in a data center, the greater the opportunity for mixups and failures. Superpod sounds like the simplest option Salesforce.com could come up with to accommodate dedicated instances.
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