SAN FRANCISCO - Marc Benioff is a very candid yet benevolent fellow, having given millions of dollars to charities over the years, helped many small companies get started, and offered his time and assistance for causes in which he believes.
He also loves to speak to the press and to his constituents, and enjoys heaping praise upon his partners and customers. But when it comes to competitors in his large corner of the IT services market, he can be rather stark with his assessments.
At a packed press conference Sept. 1 at the Moscone Center on Day 3 of Dreamforce 2011, the Salesforce founder, CEO and chairman (pictured) was about how his company plans to compete with other large cloud application providers-such as Chinese telecommunications provider Hauwei-that plan to offer their services using closed, proprietary clouds that are the opposite of open-standards systems like Salesforce's.
"I've said this for a long time: I don't think one player dominates this [the enterprise cloud application market]," Benioff said. "Whether it's a Chinese player, or a professional services player, or an IT player-a lot of different people have to play together and develop an ecosystem."
Telco Hauwei reportedly has tens of thousands of developers busily cranking out Web-based services, ranging from children's games to high-level IT development applications. Everything it does is kept securely within its own domain; it relies on no partnerships, does not use an outside development community, although it is said to use a lot of open-source software, and has a captive audience that includes a large part of the Chinese mainland.
"Companies that are at a disadvantage are the ones that think they're the box. If it's just a black box, and there's no APIs, no REST (representational state transfer) APIs, and so on, the customer is eventually going to say, 'That's over,'" Benioff said.
"Any company that says it has the total solution, and this is it, you know that that's not it. Anybody that tells you they have the total answer, you know it's not the total answer."
The Ecosystem in the Answer
The total answer is the ecosystem and community, Benioff said.
"That's the nature of the Internet. There are going to be a lot of players, because there's a lot of opportunity. It's a complete transformation of our industry. Everybody needs to play, whether it's a telecommunication player or any of the other ones," Benioff said.
"They're not diametrically opposed. It has to be an open, interoperable environment. That's the power of the APIs."