Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference opened last Tuesday morning to the driving beat of WILL.I.AM and the showmanship of its flamboyant CEO Marc Benioff. Dreamforce is always a lively event but this year the energy level was over the top and only overshadowed a little by Benioff's much discussed rainbow socks. I suppose you have to accept a bit of the hype as a sign of Salesforce's and Benioff's continuing role as lead evangelists for the rapidly expanding "cloud" movement. Cloud computing and its sister "everything as a service" are a part of the leading IT trends today and a key element in most of the other key trends, everything from mobile to social business. Okay, back to the subject at hand, Dreamforce 2010. To make this easier let's break the week and conference up into these section: 1. What's new in the existing apps and platform, 2. What are the new products, 3. Other happenings of interest.
Before we dive in though, maybe it would be useful to look at Salesforce as a company because maybe they are at a different point in their evolution than many believe...or said another way, your perception of them may still be tied to a company image that is rooted in their start up past. First don't get me wrong, they are still helping to lead an important change in the IT landscape, it's just that they are much more mature as a company and because of that they have to make product and business decision differently than an immature software vendor. As an apps vendor Salesforce is a mature vendor and has a mature, 10+ year old sales force automation product. Other parts of the product are less mature of course, but in all, the CRM apps are at a point where customers need incremental improvement, not radical, discontinuous innovation and change, something Salesforce.com is delivering. There was a time a few years ago when it was not rolling out as many incremental CRM product innovations, a time when it was focused more on the new platform offering, but that time has clearly past. At a $1.7+B subscription run rate, Salesforce.com is a major software vendor and from a business model standpoint the apps end of the business is established and stable, with nice, continuous double digit growth. The platform side of the business is somewhat less mature and the model and products are changing more. Salesforce.com is also expanding its business model to include more ways of creating revenue streams and experimenting with partnerships, acquired products and ways to expand and grow a healthy ecosystem.
What's new with the existing apps and platform? Salesforce.com a few years ago started breaking out the products into "clouds", which is actually an easy way to look at the product portfolio, Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Collaboration Cloud, Data Cloud, etc. For the base product clouds the current release, Summer 10, added new functionality and across the board Salesforce.com is calling them 2nd generations of its product set, or Cloud 2. The following slide shows the complete portfolio:
Chatter or the collaboration cloud got a lot of attention during Dreamforce this year and for the second year in a row (it was announced last year at Dreamforce 09). In fact Salesforce.com made extensive use of Chatter during the conference (over 14K users and 740+ groups) and showcased several customers that have deployed Chatter including Dell. Dell has over 100K users on Chatter and attributes its successful deployment to three things, training for all users, alignment with the corporate communications group and executive support and buy in (sounds like a solid implementation approach). One new use case for Chatter, by the way, is in the Service Cloud, which now has integration to Chatter for escalations management and collaboration. For internal collaboration Chatter seems to be getting a lot of attention from existing Salesforce customers. For me, there seem to be two limitations to the current release of Chatter, the biggest being the fact that it is organization limited and cannot connect to anyone outside of the "firewall". The other issue is something that I'm becoming more and more convinced will be a limitation for adoption of activity streams in general, that is the idea that everyone will be willing to use a tool that is outside of their normal enterprise SW / workflow. While I think many will be willing to use the tool, for some the interruption to daily workflow won't be comfortable and at worst will cause them to reject using the tool. I believe that over time we must embed activity streams at the point of work for them to gain widespread adoption, but that's just my opinion at this point and maybe Salesforce and other activity stream vendors will prove me wrong.
The Service Cloud 2 also got a fair bit of air time with a few interesting new features and integrations. Salesforce.com for Facebook, which has been out for a couple of years added several key features and most importantly is tightly integrated with the Service Cloud. It's Twitter integration also got a facelift and is tightly integrated into the Service Cloud. One of the criticisms of the Service Cloud product, that it didn't accommodate high volume call centers seems to be closer to a non-issue with the addition of a console for high volume call centers in the latest release. Overall the Service Cloud is now the fastest growing Salesforce product at 106% y/y growth. Motorola is one of the customers making use of the Service Cloud with over 600 agents now on the product.
As you would expect a lot of the real action at Dreamforce was focused around the new "stuff, which mostly affected the Force.com platform. In summary those announcement were: a new database cloud, database.com; the acquisition of Heroku, a Ruby on Rails development platform; the availability of VMforce announced earlier this year; and the data cloud built from the acquisition of Jigsaw, also earlier this year. The one outlier announcement was a joint one with BMCsoftware of a new product built natively on force.com, Remedyforce, more on that in a minute.
Database.com and the database cloud is an interesting announcement on several fronts. In the simplest form, developers should find the offering of interest since many are looking to deploy apps that provide ubiquitous access, multi-device, multi-OS, etc. Having a cloud ready database to use for development could speed up that process. Database.com is the latest in Salesforce utilizing assets that they already had developed by putting a public front end on the asset and offering it as a product. If you think about it, when Salesforce.com started in 1999, building applications for SaaS was new and they had no available cloud platforms including the database tier. They had to develop all of these assets and now that they are mature Salesforce is opening them up for other ISV's to use, starting with the Force.com platform and now with the Database.com offering. Database.com supports any development platform, any development language and any device. With the offering ISV's get a scalable multi-tenant database with automatic upgrades, tuning and backup. Pricing for the new offering is the first 100K records / 50K transactions free then $10 per month per 100K records. Here are a couple of screen shots:
In an attempt to open up Force.com to other more popular development languages Salesforce.com did a partnership with VMware earlier this year to incorporate VMware's Spring Java platform into it's Force.com offerings as VMforce. That product is now available in Beta. Continuing in the vein of opening up to more popular languages Salesforce.com announced its intent to acquire Ruby on Rails platform company Heroku for $212 M. This in my opinion is one of the most exciting announcements of the week. Ruby is by far the hottest language these days and will open up Force.com to a lot of ISV's in my opinion.
One of the new clouds that joined the Salesforce.com sky is the Data cloud, based on Jigsaw, a product acquired earlier this year. Jigsaw provides crowdsourced contact data and is now tightly integrated into Salesforce.com. With millions of contacts and a self cleaning data set, Jigsaw embedded in the Sales Cloud could prove a very welcome and useful addition, providing significant value for sales people on the go.
On the partner front Salesforce.com extended its relationship with BMCsoftware. Last year at Dreamforce BMC announced that it planned on building a native Force.com app from its Remedy franchise. This year they jointly announced a new product offering, Remedyforce which will be sold by both companies. This go to market model provides BMC an excellent distribution channel through the proven salesforce.com direct sales force and provides salesforce.com an interesting test case for a model that could be expanded to include other ISV's. In fact this could signal the addition of a new business model leveraging the growing partner ecosystem although when asked in my meeting with him, EVP of emerging products, Brett Queener denied any such plans at present.
On day two of Dreamforce, Wed morning, I had a somewhat disconcerting experience that ended up being directly related to the Wed pre-show. As I was leaving my hotel I entered the elevator by myself and a few floors later the elevator stopped and to my surprise G.W Bush walked on the elevator. Now remember this is at 7am and I'm completely without caffeine. I didn't collect myself soon enough to say anything but I was surprised that Bush was sans entourage so I began to doubt my sighting, I mean I suppose someone could look exactly like the ex-president. He got off the elevator ahead of me, was greeted in the lobby and quickly ushered into a limo. Of course later that morning during the pre keynote show out walks Bush... Okay, actually a very good Bush impersonator but I have to say, he looks real, even close up.
Just a few other points of interest and I promise I'll stop rambling. The Dreamforce concert act this year was Stevie Wonder and as anticipated he put on a great show. What was not anticipated though was his appearance on stage with Marc during what was supposed to be ex-president Bill Clinton's keynote. It seems that Clinton's flight was delayed by bad weather and so Stevie agreed to join his friend Marc for a little Q&A. Stevie's warm, genuine and caring nature really came through in what was a truly amazing session. I Tweeted many of his comments so you can check them out or check out some clips on YouTube. When Clinton showed up Marc asked Stevie to introduce him. Clinton opened with a great quote: "I've been a mediocre musician all my life and I never dreamed that Stevie Wonder would open for me". I won't recap all of Clinton's speech here, but I will say he continues to be a great speaker and his message really resonated with me. The concept for the speech was built around what Clinton identified as the three biggest issues facing the world today, that it is unequal, unstable and unsustainable. Take a look here for some clips of his speech.