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Harrah's takes gamble on Force.com

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27th Nov 2008
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Platform as a service is gaining traction, with Harrah's Entertainment the latest convert to the cause, courtesy of Salesforce.com. In the wake of robust results, CEO Marc Benioff cites Force.com and the platform as a service pitch as one of the key differentiators for the firm.

By Stuart Lauchlan, news and analysis editor

The platform as a service argument pushed by the likes of Salesforce.com appears to be gaining traction, with Harrah's Entertainment announcing this week that it is moving key business applications to Salesforce.com's Force.com.

Harrah's, which operates numerous high-profile Las Vegas casinos, including Caesar's Palace and The Rio, as well as Harrah's branded properties, plans to shift applications for managing room reservations, air travel programmes and player relations onto Force.com. It's one of the biggest deployments of Force.com to date and one of the biggest bets on cloud computing as an enterprise platform as the applications running on the platform will be mission-critical revenue-generators for Harrah's.

"This simple idea - manage, share and build in the cloud at far lower cost, lower risk, and less complexity than traditional enterprise software - is the essence of our corporate strategy."

Marc Benioff, CEO, Salesforce.com

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. The new platform will allow tge reps to make room requests over the web and receive confirmations back within hours. Airline schedules will be integrated directly into Harrah's travel management system, which should make it easier for the casino operator to schedule travel for VIP guests.

Previously these functions were carried out manually. Booking a room,for example, might require the field representatives to fax reservation requests to the appropriate casino and took days of back and forth manual coordination to process.

Harrah's CIO Tim Stanley said that the Force.com platform provides more flexibility than traditional, client-server architectures have in the past. "Innovation helps us continually surprise and satisfy our customers, as well as keep us a step ahead of our competitors," he said. "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 have been advocates and innovators with a variety of SOA, SAAS and other enabling tools, technology and platforms for years and Force.com has shown strong promise as a viable, scalable and flexible platform for several new capabilities we can envision for our business. We have now delivered several new applications that provide demonstrable benefits to our business and we are already pushing ahead into a wider array of new and enhanced capabilities including deeper integration with some of our existing CRM and transactional systems. It's been a high value and low cost initiative for us."

Critical planks

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff ranks Force.com as one of the most critical planks in the company's strategy. “Our Force.com platform had an outstanding third quarter, accounting directly for more than 5% of total new business and remains our leading differentiator for Salesforce CRM,” he said earlier this month.

"We discovered how we could leverage cloud computing to develop new systems and enhance our existing capabilities that we use to run our business."

Tim Stanley, CIO, Harrah's

“Just one quarter after Dell selected the Force.com platform as part of an enterprise license agreement that made them our largest global customer, I'm pleased to announce that Japan Post has extended their deployment by another 5,000 subscribers, to push their total deployment to roughly 65,000. Japan Post continues to be our largest Force.com platform deployment in the world. In all, we added nearly 200 new platform customers in the third quarter, including Logitech, Barr Pharmaceuticals, Novartis, and Lifetime Fitness, to name a few.

“Our Salesforce CRM applications let you manage and share any kind of data in the cloud, and our Force.com platform lets you build any kind of application. This simple idea - manage, share and build in the cloud at far lower cost, lower risk, and less complexity than traditional enterprise software - is the essence of our corporate strategy. On the platform side, traditional software is suffering from comparisons to Force.com. In fact, in an independent study found that Force.com is 30% to 40% cheaper to develop on that Java, with a five times gain in productivity. That's why Gartner named the Force.com platform a Visionary in its Enterprise Application Server Magic Quadrant, a first for any Platform as a Service company.

“And ISVs are increasingly choosing Force.com as their platform standard. At Dreamforce we announced that some 50 ISVs are currently building natively on Force.com. Our customers love to run apps from native ISVs because they're backed by the same trusted, flexible, secure and reliable architecture that powers Salesforce CRM. That means that they can run more of their core enterprise functions, like ERP and accounting, in our cloud as well. ISVs like Thompson Reuters, Coda and Fujitsu can rely on the world's leading enterprise cloud for native development at unprecedented speed and built-in reliability and scalability. For ISVs, we believe there's no faster path to success in cloud computing than building natively on Force.com.”

Customers are themselves using Force.com to develop their own applications, he added. “We've had tremendous traction with our customers with Force.com. Customers have built about 85,000 applications. They also have written and installed millions of custom fields and custom objects. They've done so many things,” he said, citing New Jersey Transit as an example of a Force.com implementation. “They now manage all of their incidents using Force.com, so any problems with any of the trains or anything that happens involving their entire system. And they're going to be using Force.com sites to be making all that information publicly available on the web as well as on mobile devices.”

In conclusion, Benioff cites Force.com and the platform as a service pitch as one of the key differentiators for the firm. "It's a tremendous differentiator. None of our competitors have built platform as a service. Most of them don't believe in it, which is very exciting to us, but customers do and we see them doing a tremendous amount of work using the platform.”

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