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Cloud Wars – Can the Force Disrupt the Battlefield?
The cloud market is not going away. Gartner predicts that cloud spending from 2013 to 2016 will be $677 billion worldwide
By: Ed Featherston
May. 22, 2014 12:00 PM
The cloud wars battle rages on. Gartner predicts that one in four cloud providers will be gone by 2015, making this a very high stakes battle for all concerned. The 800lb gorillas, AWS, IBM, Google, Microsoft, et al. continue their efforts for dominance. The latest salvo has been a price war between Google, AWS and Microsoft for their services. Pricing is spiraling downward at breakneck speeds. The others are sure to follow. Into this fog of war, another player has been working on winning the hearts and minds of customers and developers. SalesForce.com, one of the first and best known Software as a Service (SaaS) vendors, has set its sights on becoming the platform of choice for cloud development and deployments.
Will they succeed? They definitely can be considered a gorilla in their own right, approaching $5B in sales, and with a reported 1.5M developers, should not be taken lightly. Their approach is having an impact in the battle, forcing the other vendors and the industry to re-think how they look at cloud services, and could ultimately change the battlefield tactics in the ongoing cloud wars. To understand how a CRM vendor rose to that level of impact, becoming a contender in the cloud wars, one must trace their roots.
This Is Not Your Father's CRM
Salesforce.com took CRM in a very different direction when they were founded in 1999. They were one of the first companies to truly push the SaaS model with their ‘End of Software' marketing pitch and campaign. While we take SaaS for granted nowadays, this was a pretty radical approach at the time. To set some context, in 1999
Eleven years later, Salesforce.com rose to become the industry market leader in CRM, bypassing the ERP stalwarts SAP and Oracle, capturing 14 percent marketshare according to Gartner. In that timeframe their name became synonymous with SaaS (think, how many presentations on the cloud have you seen that give Salesforce.com as an example of SaaS?).
May the Force Be with You
Gartner's latest magic quadrant for Enterprise PaaS places Salesforce.com as the industry leader. Gartner views one of their key strengths as having the "...longest strategic and successful presence in the cloud application and platform markets. This gives salesforce.com the name recognition and reputation that, for many prospects, translate to a safe choice in the otherwise immature and unsettled PaaS market." The have become the ‘safe' choice, just as in decades past the ‘nobody got fired for buying IBM' concept.
This does not mean they are a perfect solution. One of my favorite phrases is "Everything is a tradeoff," and the Salesforce.com PaaS offering is no different. It is built around a proprietary cloud native relational DBMS (which is the underlying DBMS for the Salesforce.com product suite as well). Gartner cautions ‘The proprietary nature of the Force.com platform deters adoption by many independent application development projects seeking to avoid vendor lock-in and prevents application migration projects from utilizing the platform.'
The Convergence of IaaS and PaaS, Changes in the Battlefield?
These differentiators are how Salesforce.com has been marketing and selling Force.com and what has made them the industry leader in the PaaS space. They have had their own marketplace, called AppExchange, with over 2,200 partner built applications including integrations with all the key social media technologies such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. The convergence of the IaaS and PaaS models can potentially play to SalesForce.com's sweet spot and make them a strong competitor to all the other 800lb gorillas in the ongoing cloud wars.
Will this be enough? Time will tell. The cloud market is not going away. Gartner predicts that cloud spending from 2013 to 2016 will be $677 billion worldwide. There is a lot at stake, so the cloud wars will continue for some time. SalesForce.com is more than capable of holding its own against the other 800lb gorillas in the ongoing battle for the cloud market share. Salesforce.com was born of the cloud and has not looked back nor rested on their laurels. When the predicted shakeout occurs, I think they will still be one of the ones left standing.
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