Crowding the Nest

By John Pallatto  |  Posted 2007-01-17 Print this article Print

A company that starts to grow as large and as rapidly as could start to push the parent out of the nest.

Companies that believe they have the business plan and the vision to grow up to be a great software company might decide that it is better to bite the bullet and build their own IT infrastructure to have greater control of their own destiny.

On the other hand, its harder than ever for a software company to grow big enough to either go public, get acquired by a larger company or become profitable enough to pay off its venture investors.

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Even knows that it has had to be very nimble to compete with the likes of Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. CEO Marc Benioff contends that the greatly shortened sales and deployment cycles of his companys flagship CRM platform along with the allied applications distributed through the AppExchange will allow him to land large blocks of enterprise subscribers faster than any of his competitors.

The evidence of this, he contends, is that has started to sign on large enterprise customers who are bringing in thousands of new subscribers at a stroke.

On Jan. 16 Benioff disclosed that has signed Dell as an enterprise CRM customer, bringing in 15,000 new subscribers. In September 2006 signed a deal with Cisco Systems that brought in another 15,000 subscribers.

It took seven years for to land a customer on the scale of Cisco with its 15,000 subscribers, Benioff said. But it only took seven more weeks before it repeated the feat with Dell, "and we arent done yet," he said.

Benioff doesnt believe that Microsoft, Oracle or SAP has recently landed new customers on a similar scale for their enterprise applications. is claiming a total 7,500 customers who account for the 556,000 paying subscribers working with the CRM platform as of Oct. 31, 2006. It is claiming a total of 163,000 new subscribers for the first nine months of 2006.

Benioff also took a swipe at Microsofts next major upgrade of its Dynamics CRM applications, code-named Titan. Microsoft released the code for Titan to about 300 partners on Jan. 10.

Referring to the code as "Titanic," Benioff questioned whether it would ever be an effective competitive challenge to his companys on-demand CRM platform, since Microsoft intends to deliver it under so many deployment models.

Customers will be able to run the software in house; Microsoft will run the code in an on-demand mode and partners will be able to offer the code in an on-demand mode, Benioff noted. He wondered aloud whether any of the three parties would be able to run the software efficiently. has relied on the constant expansion of the platform with new features and services to bring in new customers. It is relying on this constant expansion to try to outgrow the likes of Oracle, Microsoft, RightNow Technologies and SugarCRM., as well as all of its AppExchange partners, has to keep growing if they dont want to stumble into oblivion.

John Pallatto is a veteran journalist in the field of enterprise software and Internet technology. He can be reached at

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John Pallatto John Pallatto is's Managing Editor News/West Coast. He directs eWEEK's news coverage in Silicon Valley and throughout the West Coast region. He has more than 35 years of experience as a professional journalist, which began as a report with the Hartford Courant daily newspaper in Connecticut. He was also a member of the founding staff of PC Week in March 1984. Pallatto was PC Week's West Coast bureau chief, a senior editor at Ziff Davis' Internet Computing magazine and the West Coast bureau chief at Internet World magazine.

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