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Harrah's Bets Big On Salesforce.com Cloud

The casino operator is moving revenue generating apps, like room reservations, to the Internet.

Harrah's Entertainment is moving key business applications to Salesforce.com's cloud computing platform, the companies announced Monday.

Harrah's, which operates numerous high-profile Las Vegas casinos, including Caesar's Palace and The Rio, as well as Harrah's branded properties, will shift applications for managing room reservations, air travel programs, and player relations to Salesforce's Web-based Force.com hosted app service.

"Innovation helps us continually surprise and satisfy our customers, as well as keep us a step ahead of our competitors," said Harrah's CIO Tim Stanley, in a statement.

Harrah's deployment of crucial business applications on Salesforce's platform is surely one of the biggest bets to date by a major enterprise on so-called cloud computing, an information technology architecture in which third party vendors deliver software to customers over the Internet.

Harrah's will rely on Force.com for applications, such as room reservations, that are directly linked to revenue generation. The applications will be used by agents based at casinos, at Harrah's 50 branch offices and by about 250 independent reps who work on behalf of the company.

Among other things, the new architecture will allow reps to make room requests over the Web and receive confirmations back within hours. Additionally, airline schedules will be integrated directly into Harrah's travel management system, which will make it easier for the casino operator to schedule travel for VIP guests.

Stanley said the approach provides more flexibility than traditional, client-server setups, in which businesses maintain applications, and the associated staff and infrastructure, in-house.

"When we discovered how we could leverage cloud computing to develop new systems and enhance our existing capabilities that we use to run our business, we were thrilled to take advantage of the Force.com platform," said Stanley.

The move isn't without risk, however. Some companies have expressed concerns that cloud computing leaves their businesses vulnerable to an Internet outage and that it places too much key data in the hands of third parties.

Still, cloud computing is gaining steam, especially among smaller companies that lack large IT staffs. Salesforce counted 51,800 customers as of Oct. 31.

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