March 8, 2006 8:55 AM PST

Salesforce aims higher with new service

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Salesforce.com is expanding its hosted applications lineup with a new high-end service aimed at big companies.

The company this week launched Unlimited Edition, which includes more storage, customization and testing options than Salesforce's previous top-of-the-line Enterprise Edition.

"People were bumping up against the limits of Enterprise Edition. We're trying to cater to those organizations that want to run their entire business on demand," said Phil Robinson, vice president of marketing at Salesforce.

Unlimited Edition allows companies to run an unrestricted number of custom applications on top of their Salesforce customer relationship management service. Businesses with Enterprise Edition, by comparison, can run up to 10 custom programs. Those applications can be custom-developed in-house, or third-party programs can be acquired via AppExchange, Salesforce's online marketplace for hosted applications.

In addition, the new service allows for up to 120MB of storage per user--six times the amount of Enterprise Edition--and includes access to Salesforce Sandbox, a development and testing service. Also included is access to an assigned support representative and administrative help.

The new service costs $195 per user, per month, Robinson said. Enterprise Edition costs $125 per user, per month.

Robinson said the company is expanding its data centers and adding capacity in order to handle customers of the new service, in addition to its existing customers. Salesforce has struggled with a series of service outages in the past months that have angered some customers.

"Scaling up to handle these customers was definitely part of the game plan in terms of redeveloping our data center. It's an ever-changing beast. We need to have scalability as we will continue to add customers. So we always need to be looking at the infrastructure in terms of scalability," he said.

Salesforce is a leading proponent of the on-demand model, in which software makers deliver their wares over the Internet for a monthly fee. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff claims that model is bringing about the "end of software" as most companies know it and supplanting client-server software.

Other software makers, including Microsoft, Oracle and SAP, are becoming more involved in Web-based services for large companies.

Microsoft has already mapped out two online services to augment its Windows and Office desktop software, and plans to announce more business-oriented services in the coming year.

SAP, the largest enterprise business software maker, announced plans for its Web-based service last month.

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