CloudForce:'s 2012 UK data centre set to open up British public sector Cloud prospects

8th Sep 2010

This week's tube strike may have forced to move its London-based CloudForce conference at the last minute, but the inconvenience hasn't put CEO Marc Benioff off the UK. 

In fact, he's lined up the UK as the location for a new international data centre that will open "by 2012". In an exclusive interview with’s sister site on the eve of the CloudForce conference, Benioff revealed the UK data centre – crucial to cracking the potentially hugely lucrative UK and European public sector markets – will follow a centre in Tokyo next year and two new domestic US centres which are being set up to cater for demand. 
Having a UK-based data centre will open up potential new opportunities in the public sector where legislation and political sensitivities dictate that citizen-centric data must be hosted within national boundaries. has worked closely with the US government on the Obama administration's Cloud Computing push and Benioff himself has meet with the UK government CIO John Suffolk to discuss the potential for Cloud over here. 
But it's a long process with the public sector markedly behind the private sector in its adoption of the Cloud. "Government tends to be a laggard when it comes to technology overall," reckons Benioff. "It tends to spend more money that it needs to on technology. We need to work harder to explain Cloud Computing to government. Governments still don't understand the efficiencies that 'Real Cloud' offers like the private sector does. 'Fake Cloud' vendors like Oracle and Microsoft still have lots of traction in the public sector."
Cloudy day 
But that's all for the future. For the present, it's all about CloudForce, – a scaled-down version of the global DreamForce conference in San Francisco – which had been due to take place on Tuesday, but the strike action on the London Underground prompted a last minute rethink and a hasty – and fortuitous – shift to Wednesday instead. Despite the last minute change of date, the registered audience stuck with the event. 
"We had about 3,000 registered and even when we changed the date, they came with us," says Benioff. "There's a great overall momentum in Europe. Our results have been spectacular in Europe this year. There's a lot of enthusiasm for Cloud Computing and a lot of interest."
While Chatter for Mobile was the main talking point at the CloudForce event itself, Benioff was keen to emphasise that interest in the Cloud is across the board.  He highlighted the Service Cloud offering as an example. "No-one else has been innovating in this area," he argued. "There are all those customers out there on those old Siebel customer service implementations and until now they just haven't been given a choice. 
"Their only alternative is to move from Siebel.X to Siebel.XX. There's a lot of pressure from Oracle [owners of Siebel] to do just that. But it's incredibly expensive. The pricing is unbelievable. You have to upgrade all your infrastructure. In today's world, customers just do not have a lot funding for these extra-dimensional upgrades. Our customers don't have those problems. Our customers don't even know that upgrades are happening."
But for all that, Service Cloud has a relatively low uptake in the subscriber base – around 10,000 out of the total 82,000 customers use it according to Benioff's own estimates, although it does boast the fastest growth rate of all the portfolio. "The low number really has to do with different customers having different requirements," said Benioff. "It's also about timing. We started out with our Sales Cloud twelve years ago. We've only been doing Service Cloud for two years."
Tanks on the lawn 
Benioff's next public outing will be a re-run of last year's parking of the tanks of rival Oracle's lawn as sets out its stall alongside the Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco. An Oracle alumni – and one who's still seemingly on speaking terms with CEO Larry Ellison despite their techno-ideological differences – Benioff despairs of the firm's stance on Cloud Computing. "They are working on Cloud Computing even less than ever before," he claims. "They're all about selling you hardware and software; we're all about selling you no hardware and no software."
So Benioff will be setting up camp in a  theatre adjoining the main Oracle conference centre to spread his gospel of the 'Real Cloud'. Last year's pitch was a major success with queues of Oracle conference delegates lined up around the block in the pouring rain. With that in mind, it's tempting to wonder if Oracle will soon feel it has to embrace its rival and invite Benioff onto the main stage as some form of prodigal son? 
Benioff's response is to chuckle grimly at the very thought. "If I'm on stage at Oracle OpenWorld, then something pretty major has happened," he responds in a tone of voice that says 'don't hold your breath'. 

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