People keep calling me to ask what Salesforce is going to announce and Dreamforce. My standard answer is, how would I know? I get briefings like a lot of analysts but in a situation like this you usually have to promise to hold the news until the company makes its announcements. This is not new or unique to Salesforce, every vendor does this and I am happy to comply. But this is being written before my briefing so please do not think I am simply being coy. I am guessing here, based on my experience following the company.
My conjecture about what Salesforce is likely to announce is usually generally right and often underestimates what the company can do. Now that it has a two billion dollar run rate and the resources that such revenue implies, Salesforce can do a lot of development and make a lot of announcements. Add to that the company’s hard-core belief in delighting its customers and you can see that there’s always a lot to do but it’s easy to guess wrong.
But generally, Salesforce has a number of product lines and it is not one to miss the opportunity to make an announcement in each area. Also Dreamforce is where they tell you about the whole year ahead and they use subsequent events to deliver against the promises made at Dreamforce — another reason to cover all the bases. So, let’s look at the product lines and read some tea leaves.
Sales Cloud and Service Cloud have both been dipped in the social secret sauce over the last couple of years and I see nothing slowing in the social arena. So look for more social in each product line. Perhaps some news about social and Chatter would make sense. There was also some talk earlier this year about a Marketing Cloud and no one I know at Salesforce did much to discourage that line of thought so I look for some kind of marketing announcement. It would be a strange announcement though since Salesforce holds its marketing partners in high esteem and would be disinclined to look like it was being competitive with them.
Also, Chatter is now a default part of the baseline product with over one hundred thousand companies using it or at least having access. It would surprise me if they didn’t make some announcement about making Chatter more elaborate. How that happens is a guess because it seems like they’ve rolled it out to everyone inside the organization who might be able to use it. It would behoove them to find a way to sell more seats though because the Street is already wondering when they’ll get to $3 billion and every seat helps.
Salesforce also has a big development suite that includes the Force.com platform, database.com (introduced last year) and Heroku for building Web apps. There’s also the VMForce product for moving Java applications into Force.com. That’s a lot of development capability and it represents one of the biggest growth opportunities for Salesforce so I would expect multiple announcements around the development suites. It’s a wild guess but this might be the Dreamforce that gets dominated by development. Maybe. I would expect that before that happened that Salesforce would break off a separate show just for developers. I don’t think we’re there yet though.
Beyond the pure product announcements I am sure Marc will probably have a few comments about the foundation or the children’s hospital or the new headquarters campus. Maybe they’ll have some architectural drawings, that would be nice. Then there’s Metalica and all the entertainment that’s planned. But this is a digression of sorts.
There are also multiple user group meetings going on early in the week as AppExchange partners take advantage of the location and the customer traffic to bring their users together. Zuora and Cloud9 have told me they are holding events and I am sure there are others. Perhaps that’s why Dreamforce starts in the middle of the week.
So that’s what I know, or rather these are my hunches. After more than a decade, this company is still growing like a weed, customers give it high approval ratings (which I have checked), the company keeps on innovating and Dreamforce has become one of the milestones on the IT calendar. Bring it on.
Dreamforce, Salesforce.com’s annual user meeting and thought leadership confab, is two weeks away and the anticipation for this event is palpable. In a tough economy people are looking for the company to do some magic and lift our spirits.
The company did a smart thing by turning on its new collaboration product, Chatter, for any attendee wanting to communicate, synch or share an idea. The result is a Facebook-like storm on Chatter about Dreamforce. In the process, thousands of people who had no familiarity with Chatter are educating themselves.
It’s a no brainer to me that the Chatter coverage coming out of Dreamforce will be a bit better for all of the familiarizing. This is quite different from how we all came out of Dreamforce (was it just last year?) when the company introduced the idea. The problem was that the description had to be done in terms that many people were not expert in. What a difference a year can make.
Dreamforce has taken on an aspect of secular saturnalia with quasi-religious undertones as people comment that it’s late this year, as if they were describing Easter. And it is late, so late that the December date will do little to help any exhibitor finish the quarter well but it may prove to be a good injection of enthusiasm for the year ahead.
Unlike Easter though, which is calculated by a lunar calendar, Dreamforce is calculated according to the Moscone Center. I suppose you could contemplate a Dreamforce in New Orleans, Orlando, Chicago or Las Vegas, but salesforce.com has such a strong tie to San Francisco, that it’s doubtful it would ever move the event. So the wait for space on the Moscone calendar is what determines when Dreamforce starts.
Like the company that sponsors it, Dreamforce is many things and it morphs from year to year as products roll out and company marketing plans and market demand changes. Salesforce has been careful over the years not to simply extend its CRM product line but to add new lines of business. Dreamforce reflects this and consequently it will resemble multiple events rolled into one. Just as Oracle Open World has major tracks for its applications, database, Java and Sun for instance, Salesforce will feature tracks for CRM, its social technologies — especially Chatter, its platform and its development tools.
The Salesforce product line has spread out so much that two people could easily go to Dreamforce and see two completely different events—especially if one of them is a developer who gets sucked into all of the sessions about the platform and its related parts. And it’s assumed there will be more parts to talk about once the show starts.
I expect important announcements in most areas. CRM is perhaps the most mature part of the company’s offerings in what has become a mature market but the introduction of the Sales Cloud and Service Cloud combined with the re-think of the associated business processes will provide opportunity for many new ideas.
Chatter offers a fresh perspective on collaboration and I hope there will be more discussion about how to use it effectively than about how to implement it. From what I’ve seen implementation amounts to turning it on. It’s like calling people to Thanksgiving dinner, you don’t really need to teach the how to eat. So stories from some of the sixty thousand companies now using Chatter is all that’s needed.
Then there’s the platform. In the last two years the rest of the vendor community has played catch up with Salesforce in cloud computing. Everyone has a flavor of it today and most vendors straddle the fence offering single and multi-tenant implementations that deliver on the literal interpretation of SaaS but leave the benefits of multi-tenancy to discretion.
Perhaps that’s as it should be, we can’t expect a wholesale change to multi-tenancy over night for two important reasons. First, many customers can’t or won’t contemplate the idea and second, many vendors can’t contemplate the business model change. For them, multi-tenancy will happen in about ten years, the next time they discover that their cloud computing paradigm didn’t really protect them from obsolescence.
But back to the platform. Salesforce has always had a lead over traditional vendors that varied in length but was always centered on its platform. There have been important platform innovations in the last year or so including the VMforce effort but I think it’s time for something else. So it might be that the biggest new product announcement will be in the platform area. That would make sense because it would give the company time to consolidate its Chatter rollout on the application side of the business.
Other things to think about for Dreamforce: Bill Clinton and Stevie Wonder. There’s no moss growing on Bill Clinton. Since leaving the Whitehouse he’s been a tireless worker for humanitarian causes and his keynote, “Embracing our Common Humanity” is eagerly anticipated. Then there is the incomparable Stevie Wonder who will bring his hefty songbook to Dreamforce. To me, there is no one in modern music who combines the musicianship and lyrical dexterity of this man and I predict there will be dancing in the aisles.
So that’s what I think about Dreamforce going in. I will post more comments from the event and hope to get some pics to share as well. Meanwhile, have a great Turkey Day and Go Patriots!
Save the date. Salesforce.com is planning an announcement in late June and the analyst and press communities have been notified that “Marc Benioff will be presenting and there will be news.” (That last part sounds like a movie title to me.) But as usual, the company is being mum about what the news will be.
The hints I’ve seen are interesting and surprising. The interesting part is that in all likelihood there will be new chatter about Chatter. Salesforce does very good marketing blocking and tackling using the rule of threes — announce something, deliver it and then tell us what you delivered just to remind us. For Chatter we’ve been through the first two phases with the announcement last month that the beta is going well. So in June look for the company to announce end of beta, general availability and a bumper crop of customers with stories to tell. Maybe there’ll be a Chatter partnership announcement.
Or not. Salesforce is also very good at doing the unexpected. So what we know for sure is June 22.
Now for the surprising part. The announcement event will be in San Jose not San Francisco. With San Jose being the center of a lot of programming prowess and home to some major tech players, I get the feeling that the event could be more about VMForce or something else related to the platform than Chatter. Or maybe they just needed a bigger hall? It’s at the San Jose Convention Center.
So this is where things get a little squirrely. I have no guidance on this and the best I can do is guess and that guess wouldn’t be worth much. On the other hand, Salesforce tends to have a reason to assemble the press and analyst corps about once per quarter and I think they only did a small thing in Q1 so it’s nice to see them back on schedule. More importantly, other vendors are stepping up their marketing and outreach and that’s another sure sign that the recession is loosening its grip.
Well, that’s what I know; Salesforce is announcing something in San Jose in June.
The VMForce announcement leaves us all with one big question — ok, many questions like when and how much. But the question I am most interested in at the moment is whether or not this is a single or multi-tenant thing and what it means for the industry and Salesforce’s multi-tenant chops and possibly, how this all plays in the discussion of public and private clouds.
Let me start by digressing. My understanding of VMForce is that it offers a way to move Java code to the cloud while enabling it to access data from Salesforce Cloud applications. This happens automagically when a developer selects VMForce as the server for an application. VMForce.com provides a virtual Java server and voila the application is available to users of the cloud instance along with other Force.com applications with proper security.
That all looks good but just because the Java code is running on the VMForce platform it does not mean the Java code is suddenly multi-tenant. Does it matter? Hmmm. The VMForce virtual server is a multi-tenant device conjured up from multi-tenant resources, but the Java code is separate so it’s operating as a single tenant instance.
Someone send me mail if this is not the way it works.
The net effect to the customer is a familiar application running native in Salesforce and able to access all of the user’s data and other applications so the difference is nugatory to the user.
How is this different from running the Java application on a hosted server in the sky? Well, first off, the server in the sky runs like the server in the data center which is to say it is walled off from the rest of the world and integration with a cloud (or any other application) requires a more tedious and conventional integration process (read time and money here). So you get much simpler and less costly integration and the ability to run concurrently in one cloud environment.
Is this a private cloud? I guess so but only to the extent that by providing an instance of Force.com to any user, that user has a “private” cloud that just happens to be integrated to the rest of the world.
Is this a departure for Salesforce? That’s debatable but I lean towards saying yes here so I am calling it smulti-tenant. I’m not very concerned about doctrinal purity here. The facts as I see them are that this approach merges legacy applications into the future of cloud computing. The alternative, moving your data center to the sky or using infrastructure as a service, does nothing to move legacy code into the future. It just changes the location of the private data center.
As an engineering proposition this is elegant, like making the strongest and lightest airframe or bridge. If Cole Porter were a Java programmer I am sure he’d say ‘swonderful, ‘smarvelous.
I got this long comment on yesterday’s VMForce post and I disagree with some, but not all of it, and rather than just posting it and letting it run, thought I would comment using it as the Q part of a Q&A. Here it is.
“Great analysis on vmforce announcement.”
Ok, you didn’t expect me to disagree with everything did you?
“At the outset vmforce will benefit vmware by providing their Java developers instant access to cloud services. Also vmforce will benefit salesforce.com by increasing adoption of Force.com platform among Java community. From developers perspective I believe today’s announcement is a ground breaking one that is a win-win for both salesforce.com and vmware.
This is true though as I told John Pallatto at eWeek, I think the early adoption will be among Java developers employed at companies already using Force.com and possibly ISVs and SIs who have catalogues of Java code they’re just itching to deploy in the cloud. There are six million Java developers and even one percent of them represents a lot of code.
“However today’s announcement is short on details around business deployment scenarios and pricing models. I hope today’s announcement is just an incremental step towards a much larger strategy on open cloud infrastructure that addresses some concerns around cloud computing like security and scalability for enterprises.
Salesforce has a well-documented and time tested approach to its announcements. Like a good baseball team, that looks fresh and crisp on the field, it’s because they execute well on the fundamentals. For Salesforce, this means the old rule of three — tell them what you are going to do, do it and then tell them what you did. The company has gone through a year many times hitting on this formula for every major advance and VMForce is no different. This was round one.
Not sure where we get the security and scalability for enterprises issue that the writer is talking about. These were issues in the middle of the last decade that haven’t been raised recently because they literally went away. I noticed at the NetSuite partner meeting a couple of weeks ago that CEO Zach Nelson was dealing with these issues in ERP but they’re about as valid in ERP as they were in CRM. Salesforce has many enterprise customers with thousands or tens of thousands of users, what do they need to do to put the scalability issue to rest? And when was the last time your credit card information was stolen from a Salesforce application? I’ve got a lifetime subscription to the credit rating agencies from all of the enterprises with conventional IT who lost my credit card information. And there are dozens of companies in Silicon Valley that have lost valuable IP to state sponsored IT pirates from China. They had conventional security too. Sorry, but I just can’t buy the argument that SaaS is not scalable or secure.
“Currently salesforce.com lacks support for private clouds for enterprises and only supports public clouds through its hosting services. Majority of enterprise customers will be reluctant to migrate to public clouds until concerns around security are addressed. Industry market trends point to migration towards “private/managed” clouds by enterprise customers in the next 3-5 years time-frame. I hope salesforce.com will announce products or partner with companies like vmware to fill this gap.
Show me your 3-5 year data please. I see 1.4 million users and 70,000+ companies using Salesforce. Let’s call them the early adopters if we must. I am sure some enterprises will not migrate to the cloud no matter what. My prediction is that they will all eventually be headquartered in some inland Rocky Mountain state, dig bomb shelters and join the NRA.
But I digress. The definition of public and private clouds is something invented by the part of the industry that thinks a cloud is infrastructure as a service or IaaS. I don’t agree. IaaS is a data center in the sky, but it’s not cloud computing. To be a legitimate cloud you really need platform or PaaS and software or SaaS.
Then there’s that security bogie again. A data center in the sky will still lose my credit card just as well as one on land unless enterprises devote many more resources to the job — something they won’t spend sufficient money on. SaaS and Cloud providers spend on this as a matter of course. The private/managed clouds idea took a big hit yesterday when VMWare and Salesforce showed how to bring a Java application to the security of a scalable VMForce virtual server.
Finally, Force.com has always offered private server capability, that’s what you get when you run your enterprise on an instance of Force.com. What the writer is alluding to when he says “private” is more about single tenant, dedicated hardware in the data center in the sky. Of course this approach destroys much of the rational and cost savings of cloud computing so why go there?
“In addition current public cloud deployments models have some limitations on scalability and performance front. While multi-tenancy is good from h/w utilization perspective, due to the inherent sharing model it is not ideal for compute intensive and complex data processing applications. Until this limitation is addressed few enterprises will be willing to migrate to public clouds.
Now its scalability and performance. Ok, you’ve got me, the cloud is probably not the place to do molecular modeling or tornado tracking — though the human genome made great and creative use of spare PC cycles unraveling DNA. So, all of you molecular modelers and complex calculation buffs are excused from class. The rest of us will be just fine running our business applications in the cloud, I suspect.
“I hope trailblazers like salesforce.com and vmware will address these limitations around public clouds soon. On a final note we seem to have a new “— as a service” acronym pop up every other day. Unless each and every one of these services is tied to “customer value proposition” we will just end up with technical jargon that only confuses the end customer.
I think we did all that yesterday, at least at the announcement I attended.