SAN FRANCISCO — It's a cloudy day today in San Francisco -- but that's got nothing to do with the rainy weather outside. Thanks to Salesforce.com's annual user and developer conference, Dreamforce, a different kind of cloud cover has settled on the city's Moscone Center: cloud computing. "These are crazy times -- these are wacky times," said Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com's cofounder, chairman, and chief executive officer, in kicking off the event. "There has never been a better time for cloud computing. There has never been a better time for Salesforce.com." He went on to talk about how the whole industry has taken notice of the cloud movement. Running a platform on the cloud is no longer such a stretch, he said, pointing to -- but pretending not to remember the name of -- Microsoft's own cloud strategy, announced last week.
"It's called -- I can't even pronounce it," Benioff joked. "I don't care -- it's that they said it."
The anti-software chairman went on to talk about what he sees customers wanting from Salesforce.com in the present day. They want all their CRM in the cloud, he said, and they want all their applications in the cloud. With that in mind, he said, there were issues his company's Force.com platform needed to address.
"We noticed as you are running your Internet, a lot of you are buying [Microsoft] SharePoint...and outdated servers and all kinds of other terrible stuff I don't want to mention," he said, before unveiling what he called one of the conference's highlights, Force.com Sites. The service allows users to run the full extent of their Web-based operations on the Force.com cloud. Not only can users run Web applications on Force.com, but now they can easily transfer applications over to the public Web.
"This should be as transformational for companies as Salesforce.com was when you originally brought it on," he said. "This is a whole new way to think about your Web site."
Parker Harris, another Salesforce.com cofounder and now the company's executive vice president of technology, took attendees through several demos, demonstrating just how easy it is to access applications from the platform and then create or update a Web site. Benioff and Harris emphasized that the company's intent was to erase the pain points, allowing any user to virtually run its entire business with the Salesforce.com platform.
Benioff explained his thinking behind the day's announcements: "We see this as not about one vendor on the stage saying, ‘It's only us, it's only our offerings, it's only our ecosystem.' Now that's over. We need a new world where all of these can interoperate." To illustrate his point, Benioff noted that, since Salesforce.com announced its Google AdWords program and, later, its native integration with Google Apps, 10,000 Salesforce.com customers have used Google AdWords and $116 million has been spent annually by Salesforce.com customers on Google AdWords. The tight relationship with Google is set to continue.
Moving on to another cloud-platform superstar, Benioff posed the question, "What if enterprise apps met social networks?" Bearing that question in mind, Benioff announced Force.com for Facebook, an effort to bring the two megaplatforms together and essentially make them interoperable. With the connectivity, users can build Facebook applications on Force.com and even use Force.com sites to create sites for Facebook. On the flip side, users can bring in Facebook network information to Force.com applications. Salesforce.com executives cited job recruiting as a prime example of how this partnership can pay off: Combining social networks and enterprise applications, they said, is essentially a recruiter's dream come true.
Talking about the cloud superpowers would not be complete without mentioning Amazon Web Services. In the third big announcement of the morning, Benioff introduced Force.com for Amazon Web Services, a move that will allow platform-to-platform integration despite language differences.
In other strategic news, Benioff addressed the company's support of applications going native on Force.com -- so far 50 have done so. Benioff repeatedly thanked and emphasized Salesforce.com's commitment towards the ISVs that have made the move.
A Dreamforce keynote would not be complete without a celebrity guest. This morning Benioff welcomed his friend, musician, and thinker Neil Young to the stage to discuss Young's commitment to green automotive technology. Young's project, an electronically powered Lincoln, was driven out on the stage. Young is trying to create an ecosystem of supporters, thinkers, and contributors to the auto innovation, which he says has experienced a series of missed opportunities. The LincVolt.com Web site, which is powered by Force.com Sites is aimed to gather input, innovation, and involvement to drive change in the automotive industry.
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