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Salesforce.com Unifies, Extends Cloud Portfolio

At Dreamforce conference, Salesforce.com's marketing, development platform, and HTML5 announcements point to consolidation of acquisitions even as it adds new file-sharing, social, and collaborative capabilities.
Simplifying Salesforce.com

Salesforce.com has simplified its purchasing experience over the last year by offering all-you-can-eat enterprise license agreements. But it hasn't simplified its array of applications and services. In fact, acquisitions have made things more complicated, with multiple options across the company's six product lines: sales force automation, customer service, marketing, collaboration, human capital management, and Salesforce.com development platforms and platform services.

In the marketing area, Salesforce now owns both Radian6 and Buddy Media, but at Dreamforce it will announce the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which will "unify" (don't say "consolidate") these offerings. The distinct services of Radian6 and Buddy will still be available, but the plan is for the separate brands, separate interfaces, and separate product experiences to go away over time.

The first version of the Marketing Cloud will essentially put a single-sign-on interface and single buying approach (starting at $5,000 per month) in front of Radian6, Buddy Media, and Salesforce.com, creating what the vendor describes as "a single suite." But it doesn't sound like it will feel like a suite until sometime next year.

"The social media listening, engagement, and paid media components will eventually be available through a single measurement dashboard and with single measurement tools," Rob Begg, a Saleforce.com VP of marketing told InformationWeek. "And whether it's the content marketing engagement app that you might know from Buddy Media or one-to-one customer engagement that you may know from Radian6, it will all happen through the same interface and same product."

Unification is also ahead for Force.com and Heroku, the two major cloud development platforms. Force.com uses the company's original APEX development language, whereas Heroku is focused on development in Java, Ruby, Python, and other languages--primarily for business-to-consumer applications running on Amazon, Facebook, and other cloud platforms.

Salesforce.com didn't prebrief journalists or analysts on the plans for Force.com and Heroku, but Maynard of Wells Fargo noted that Heroku CEO Byron Sebastian recently left Salesforce.com, and that Benioff had hinted the company would introduce a single-sign-on tool called Salesforce Identify. "When it comes to making customers successful, we think streamlining the identity and authentication of apps is very important," Maynard wrote in this week's research note.

One other announcement that should lead to simplification, albeit over time, is the introduction of Salesforce Touch, an HTML5-based version of Salesforce.com's Sales Cloud applications. Salesforce Touch was announced at last year's Dreamforce event, and it was promised "in early 2012." Salesforce.com also said Touch would expand to cover all of the company's major applications, but that's hasn't happened on time, either.

Salesforce.com's press release brags that Touch will "bring Salesforce to any mobile device, regardless of platform." But the fact is that Salesforce Touch currently supports only Apple iPad tablets. Android tablet support is expected later this year. IPhone support will be available "in the next 12 months," according to a company spokesperson. Salesforce execs say more than 700 customers are already using Salesforce Touch, and as of Wednesday, any Sales Cloud customer can have their administrator simply turn the service on to Touch enable their sales applications.

Salesforce.com still has native apps for iPad and Android that it doesn't plan to abandon. Some observers might say that Salesforce, rather than its customers, stands to benefit most from HTML5, as it will be free the company from having to develop separate native apps for separate mobile platforms. But companies that develop on Salesforce must also be considered, as they, too, will be able to see their apps rendered in HTML5 without separate mobile development work.

"Not all of our customers have the resources or want to invest in one-off iOS or Android apps for specific form factors," Mark Woolen, VP, product marketing for Salesforce Sales Cloud told InformationWeek. "This is a big benefit for customers that are developing on top of the Sales Cloud."

Whether it's about apps, development platforms, mobile delivery, marketing, or any other aspect of the Salesforce.com portfolio, unification will benefit Salesforce.com and customers alike as it will simplify technology selection, deployment and development, and it should cut costs (for both parties). Whether you call it unification, simplification, or consolidation, it was high time for Salesforce to start streamlining its fast-growing portfolio.

Find out the nine questions you must ask before migrating apps to the public cloud in the Cloud Ready? special issue of InformationWeek. Also in this issue: It's time to lay to rest two common myths of the cloud computing era. (Free registration required.)