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Dreamforce: Benioff makes a PaaS at the social enterprise

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3rd Sep 2011
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It's batting its eyes at developers and tying its platform to the social enterprise. Is PaaS going to be a money spinner for sf.com?

After painting a picture of a social-powered future that was in turns terrifying and exciting in his opening day keynote, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff used day two of Dreamforce to demonstrate how his company’s platform-as-a-service (PaaS) fits perfectly into the frame.
PaaS may only presently account for a small percentage of sf.com’s income, but with Forrester forecasting that the worldwide PaaS market will grow to almost $12bn in 2020, it was never going to be a part of the business to fall by the wayside. And with a number of solid (if not earth-shattering) announcements and intrinsically tying it to its ‘social enterprise’ mission statement, Salesforce.com is positioning itself to enjoy a bigger slice of the PaaS pie – and particularly as it looks to make itself more appealing to developers.
Highlighting 10-year computing cycles that demand new platforms, Benioff pointed to mainframe computing in the 60s, client/server computing in the 80s, desktop Cloud Computing in the 90s and mobile Cloud Computing the last decade.
Now it is the time of the “social revolution”, he said – and this requires social platforms.
“Every time we have moved into a new paradigm we have moved into a new platform,” he explained to delegates at San Francisco’s Moscone Centre. “The social revolution is going to require a new platform – and we have been working on that.”
He added: “We have to leave old legacy platforms behind. We need new platforms. We have to evolve out platform and let go of the old way, the old databases, the old application servers … We need a next generation platform. One that is social, mobile, real-time and open.”
This next generation platform will sit on feeds and social graphs, boast real-time notifications and workflows and will feature the ability to add open standards, explained Benioff, who then returned to his previous day’s theme of the three steps to the social enterprise.
“We talked about the power of the social enterprise and the power of creating a customer profile that is social, and really thinking about that database in a whole new way. We also talked about how that platform merges again in step two – the internal social network, with internal tools for collaboration, for connecting and selling, for servicing and engaging. And we also have this breakthrough of customer and product social networks.”
After having spent the previous keynote setting up the social enterprise , Benioff then got to the sharp end of this story – that Salesforce.com has created the platform to deliver the three steps to the social enterprise: creation of the social customer profile, establishment of an internal social network, and social networks for products and social networks for customers.
·         Database.com is now positioned for the creation of the social customer profile, explained George Hu, EVP, platform, marketing and operations at sf.com, also demonstrating its new data residency option. “Just as Salesforce.com has been reborn social, so Database.com has been reborn social,” he said, adding that it had been “rebuilt from the ground up to be social, mobile and open” such that it is now “the social database to capture the social customer profile.”
·         Elsewhere, Force.com supports the establishment of the employee social network, and will be bolstered from Winter 2012 by a number of Chatter upgrades including Chatter Connect to provide “one social view within your social applications”, while unveiling touch.salesforce.com, a new Web-based resource  for delivering an HTML5-based version of its applications.
·         And finally with the acquisition of Heroku, Benioff argued that Salesforce.com also had the perfect platform to support the customer social network and product social network. Now to support Java, Heroku is “the only multi-language Cloud platform” said. Byron Sebastian, SVP and GM, platform.
But Benioff also suggested adding a fourth step to the process of becoming a social enterprise. “There is nothing more important than the success of the developer. The key to the platform becoming successful, is the developer becoming successful.” And Force.com “empowers a whole new generation of developers within your organisation”.
This is the two-pronged strategy Salesforce.com will be taking into the PaaS war – supporting the social enterprise platform, and encouraging businesses to develop apps on Force.com and Heroku so that they can be brought further into the sf.com fold. (In a press and analyst session later that day, Benioff elaborated on this to emphasise his belief that “there is no separation between our applications and our platforms”.
Luminaries using Force.com to their benefit were then wheeled out following  the announcement of new native force.com AppExchange apps, including industry big hitters Sandy Kurzig, previously of ASK Computer Systems fame and whose new venture Kenandy is built on Force.com; Ray Lane, currently chairman of Hewlett Packard, lead partner at venture capitalist firm Kleiner Perkins and former president of Oracle; and another former Oracle alumni, Charles Phillips, now CEO of Infor.
With developers having already built more than 400,000 next-generation applications using its platform solutions, Salesforce.com is making major progress. If it can also convincingly sell its vision of the ‘social enterprise’, and the importance of its solutions within that, the PaaS war may be a very profitable one for the Cloud giant.

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