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Salesforce IoT Cloud Success Rests On Informatica Partnership

Salesforce has set up its Internet of Things cloud, but it's counting on Informatica to help customers move data into it.
Dreamforce 2015: 8 Ways Analytics Changes Business
Dreamforce 2015: 8 Ways Analytics Changes Business
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If the Internet of Things Cloud is going to succeed for Salesforce the way some of its predecessors have succeeded, it will need something that the others didn't -- specifically, connectivity to an endless and unpredictable number of machines, devices, and systems.

The data has to get from customers' premises into the Salesforce cloud, and it can't migrate there on its own.

That task would appear to be a daunting hurdle for Salesforce, which has never been in the business of boosting the value of legacy systems by building connectors for them. However, Salesforce does have a partner that knows those systems well, along with hundreds of other devices, applications, and endpoints.

Informatica is no longer just another Salesforce partner. With the advent of the Internet of Things Cloud, it is now Salesforce's primary connectivity partner. Salesforce customers will need its software connectors to get data out of a legacy system if they want to make use of it in their CRM system and enlarge their view of their customers' experience.

In part, explained Adam Gross, COO of the Heroku PaaS unit of Salesforce, users of Salesforce want to know when their customers are experiencing some sort of need they can meet. Then they want their Internet of Things Cloud to inform them.

"One way to think about it broadly is we're moving from a pull model to a push model," where automation prompts the next thing that needs to be done for the customer, Gross said in an interview at Dreamforce.

For instance, a Salesforce user's fleet of trucks, machinery in the company's factory, online transaction system, or any other system or device that is needed to provide crucial feedback, has to be connected to the Salesforce IoT Cloud.

Salesforce won't provide a connection or commission a team of programmers to develop it. It will either be produced by the customer, or in many cases, come from a third-party supplier specializing in connectors.

That's where the Informatica partnership comes in.

There are several suppliers, but Informatica is the one that is most familiar with Salesforce systems and CRM applications. It's been importing data into Salesforce CRM applications for 10 years.

[Want to learn more about Salesforce's IoT Cloud? See Salesforce Brings Internet of Things Data Into CRM.]

CEO Anil Chakravarthy said in an interview at Dreamforce that his engineers understand both how Salesforce CRM systems prefer to ingest data and in what ways it can be structured for the system to accept it. Informatica understands how to transform the data after grabbing it from a device, a piece of equipment, or a running system so that it can present it to the CRM system at its destination.

"When it comes to machine data, you want to understand what it is, parse it, and get some structure out of it," he noted in an interview.

A Special Partnership

In addition, he said Informatica is a specialist in proper data governance and security. It realizes how frequently duplicate or slightly varying copies of the data are created and how to cleanse them from the record without jeopardizing operations. That leaves a data master, or one reliable copy of the "truth" about a customer.

"Other vendors can move the data between two points," conceded Chakravarthy. However, Informatica knows how it should look to a CRM system when it gets there, he claimed.

"The knowledge we have of the CRM data models makes a difference. We understand the structure of the database. We understand the sensitive information from the non-sensitive information," Chakravarthy said, seated outside on the artificial turf of the DreamPark at Dreamforce. The DreamPark is the temporary makeover of Howard Street between the two major wings of the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Other vendors and open source systems can also move the data to the correct destination, connecting to the application, but they leave it in an undifferentiated blob that won't work with the CRM app, he said.

Those may be strong words but Salesforce, among others, appears to agree with them. Informatica went private on Aug. 6, moving under the control of investors at the Pemira Funds and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for $5.3 billion. Salesforce "took a strategic investment" in the buyout, as did Microsoft, said Chakravarthy.

"As Salesforce moves more into analytics, that's a sweet spot for Informatica. Moving analytics into the cloud is a big deal," Chakravarthy said, leading to greater use of analytical systems.

Chakravarthy took over as acting CEO as the privatization deal closed Aug. 6. He replaced Sohaib Abbasi, who became chairman. Chakravarthy had been chief product officer and executive vice president of Informatica since September 2013. He is a former senior vice president of Symantec.

Here's another sign of the partnership. Ten years ago this week, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff spoke at InformaticaWorld 2005, recalled Chakravarthy. In turn, Informatica was the only partner to appear onstage with Salesforce Sept. 15 at as it announced its Internet of Things Cloud.