Cloudy, with a Chance of Reign

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“In many people’s eyes, cloud computing has more to do with ‘being able to get cloud-computing power on the Web’ as opposed to ‘being able to create applications there,’” Kaplan says. “Salesforce.com is trying to…expand that definition to include the application-creation capability.”
For now, Kaplan says Amazon Web Services (AWS) is what comes to mind when people think of cloud computing. A source very familiar with the Salesforce.com ecosystem concurs: Businesses intent on running completely on the cloud today are primarily using AWS, this source admits, because users don’t want to give up control and they want compatibility with a standard programming language instead of being—pardon the expression—forced to use Apex, Salesforce.com’s proprietary option. Force.com may provide
more handholding for developers—but one person’s “handholding” is another person’s “handcuffing.”
Choosing to develop on Force.com, Kaplan says, basically requires a complete commitment, which would include—to Salesforce.com’s unending glee—Salesforce CRM. “Developing applications on Force.com doesn’t make sense unless you’re also centered on Salesforce.com’s primary applications themselves,” he says.
An exception that may prove the rule: Japan Post, that country’s privatized postal company, where a 5,000-seat deal became a 45,000-seat—and now a 75,000-seat—Force.com engagement that doesn’t involve Salesforce CRM. Even so, Japan Post seems no less committed to putting all its eggs in the Apex/Force.com basket.
At the moment, there’s plenty of room on that particular bandwagon. “When it comes to cloud infrastructure or PaaS, [Salesforce.com is] a small company when you look at the other potential players in the space—IBM, Microsoft, Google,” says Ron Papas, senior vice president and general manager at Informatica, which provides its data integration services on the Force.com platform and elsewhere. “[Salesforce.com has] great brand recognition when it comes to the application layer, but, when it
comes to infrastructure or platforms, [technology] organizations may not really think of [Salesforce.com]—unless they’re [already] users.”
Will some future “cloud war” lead to interoperability? Pring says he hopes so, noting the value of Salesforce.com’s integrations with Facebook and AWS as evidence.“They’re all peas in a pod—they’re all going after the same delivery model,” Pring says.“There’s plenty of room for all these guys to play nice.”
The Google/Salesforce.com relationship, for example, is fairly friendly. (See our January 2009 cover story, “The Google-ization of CRM,” for more on that partnership.) “[CEO Marc Benioff] has leveraged the Google name as a way of supporting his [cloud] argument,” Pring says, adding that Google has—for now—kept out of Salesforce.com’s way in terms of business applications. (At
press time, integration was in the works with the buzzed-about Google Wave.)
Kaplan says that, with Google, Salesforce.com has “done a lot to show the interoperability between the two Web environments.” And yet complaints persist that Salesforce.com’s push to have applications run native on Force.com makes things a bit—well, cloudy.
“The challenge [Salesforce.com] now faces is that it’s built a movement and attracted a cloud-rush of competitors,” Kaplan says.“That proliferation of players now poses a whole new competitive challenge.”

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