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You're looking at applications that have been around for 10 or 20 years, and I think there's frustration. The industry has really delivered on the dream of the Internet, but when you get down to the CIO level, the CIO is struggling to match that experience inside the enterprise and out.
You've shifted from software as a service to platform as a service. How do you think you're doing in terms of colonizing the Web with your platform as a service in terms of getting companies to just shift over to this new model--where it's, you come to us and we do everything for you?
Benioff: It's taken about a decade of Salesforce to kind of get the software service movement to really happen. We will be 10 years old on March 8 of next year. People overestimate what you can do in a year and they underestimate what you can do in a decade, unless you're (Apple CEO) Steve Jobs.
I think that it's going to take a decade to make platform as a service happen because it's the re-creation of all the ISVs (independent software vendors), the technology also, the ecosystem, the implementation, and so forth.
And just in the same way that we don't want to be the only ones doing software as a service, we certainly don't want to be the only ones doing platform as a service. We want to be able to clearly show that this is the future of the industry, too.
How are you defining "platform" in this context?
Benioff: Platforms are things that an ecosystem can evolve around. We've seen that in our industry multiple times.
But platforms as a service?
Benioff: It is a really a new concept. Certainly, eBay is a platform as a service in many ways because there is an ecosystem that is evolving around it. But I think we mean something more along the lines of .Net as a service or the traditional application servers delivered as a service. In the same way that before you had to buy an operating system and database and an application server, you will be able to get that all delivered to you, as a multi-tenant shared service. This is a tremendous revelation for the IT department because to build new apps, you don't want to have to invest a risk that's traditionally associated with the software industry.
Does this mean that you're done with the "End of the Software" slogan that you started with nine years ago?
Benioff: No, I think that this amplifies it. It's now also really the end of software as regards to software development platforms. I think that is really key. The other really exciting thing is that it's not going to be established players--the Microsofts and the IBMs and the Oracles--who are going to bring this. It's not going to come from those who have been the traditional platform vendors the last two or three decades. A wave of new companies is going to create new value in our industry.
When will Salesforce.com bring online productivity software applications that we're seeing from Google or Zoho or other companies?
Benioff: Those are not technologies that we want to create. We have our hands full in terms of doing our core areas.
So do you see Salesforce.com as being a platform not just for business applications but for consumer applications? So, for example, the next Facebook could be developed upon the Salesforce platform?
Benioff: It's possible and, of course, we would encourage it, but today our platform is mostly designed for the requirements of enterprises. That includes the scalability, reliability, availability, redundancy.
But consumers need that as well. They don't want their mail systems or their Facebook going down.
Benioff: Right, but they tolerate it more than enterprises do. We're more architected for applications where there is a cost from the customer and they're paying for a level of reliability. I am not saying that that cannot happen, but at the end of the day we haven't seen the next Facebook being built on Salesforce.
What about the brand name. Do you plan to keep Salesforce.com?
Benioff: It's something that we constantly review. We have invested a tremendous amount; it has a lot of brand equity.
What are your thoughts on a slowdown or recession and what it means for the tech business?
Benioff: We haven't really had any technology companies report numbers or make statements that this was affecting them. Maybe we will see it at some point, but I don't know. You get where you read about it and you see it on CNN and, of course, the stock market has a 200-point bear selloff. I think that's why it's on everybody's mind. But so far, tech companies haven't reported that it's an issue.
Does this kind of economic climate, where there's lots of uncertainty, make it easier or tougher for someone selling software as a service?
Benioff: The power of software as a service is that it's less risk than software, no matter what. That's because the traditional software model has you buy the software and then you attempt to implement it. The risk is all yours. You're kind of paying up front. With software as a service, you pay as you go so the risk is mitigated over time. If it's not right for you for whatever reason, you're not as far into it as the old model. The old model was you bought everything--the software, the hardware, the implementation--and then you had to make the determination: Is this the right product for me?
Does the sales pitch change a lot because of what's going on in the economy?
Benioff: I don't think it does today, but maybe over time it does. I don't think we're far enough in this. Technically, at least, we're not yet in a recession.
That's what they keep saying...
Benioff: But it's a bear stock market.
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