ORLANDO, FL.-Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff used an Oct. 19 keynote talk at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2010 to reiterate his belief that the cloud is evolving into a more mobile-centric, social-networking-driven form-a phenomenon that he refers to as "Cloud 2." Salesforce.com offers SAAS (software as a service) to companies via a subscription model, focusing in particular on CRM applications.
"Our industry is changing," he told the audience. "Now we're moving into the Facebooks, the Twitters, the iPads, the Androids, the BlackBerry Torches, and you get this transformation that's happening."
In September, Salesforce.com unveiled Chatter 2, the next version of its Chatter collaboration platform, which allows employees to post comments and share files in a Facebook-style environment. Users can tweak their profiles, form groups, click on notices and posts to see more details about cases, and follow others within their company.
But that's not to say Benioff sees the IT industry as rushing to embrace the online model-be it Cloud 1 or Cloud 2. "As vendors get larger, they hold the paradigms back," he said. "I keep trying to move the paradigms forward."
Benioff then asked for a show of hands among the audience: "How many companies here are still buying mainframes?"
A small but notable percentage of the ballroom raised their hands.
"It's amazing to me, how each paradigm subsequently lives on," Benioff said, sounding slightly amused. "But with each paradigm shift, more and more value is created. When you look at Facebook and their impending IPO, the size of it ... Apple owns a critical part of this new paradigm. Apple offers more and more value to more and more users."
Salesforce.com has been interested in social networking for a long time-at least by the standards of the tech industry. In late 2009, the company introduced Salesforce.com for Twitter, which allows customer service personnel using Salesforce.com to monitor public conversations about a product and send tweets about service issues. Through its AppExchange 2 storefront, Salesforce.com users can also download apps such as Chatter Mass Follower and Chatter Live Tag Cloud.
Given Salesforce.com's interest in social networking, it's perhaps unsurprising that Benioff, in response to a question from a Gartner executive, referred to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as "the next Bill Gates."
During his talk, Benioff also touted his cloud-based model as the ideal way for businesses to stay current with their applications' latest versions. Challenging the audience again: "How many SAP customers are on the current version ... how many Oracle customers ... how many Microsoft? Fractions. This model has to change."
The keynote drew some laughs when Benioff began describing his experiences with Oracle's recent OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.
"[Oracle CEO Larry Ellison] is introducing his new cloud, his cloud computing, he's going to kill Salesforce.com," he said, working himself into a comical frenzy. "There's this huge computer onstage, the biggest computer I've ever seen, it's black, and it's got an X on it.
"And I go: -Woah! This is insanity!' This is a cloud, a cloud in a box! And [Ellison's] like, -Buy our cloud! It has an X on it!'" Benioff later Twittered to his 5,600+ followers: Beware of the False Cloud.
"It's just another server," Benioff jabbed at Oracle's Exalogic Elastic Compute Cloud. "It's just another computer, and when Larry said it starts at a million dollars, I went: Is it democratic? Is it energy efficient? Is it good for the environment, do you have to upgrade it and update it? Because if it isn't any of those things, it isn't cloud computing."
It seems clear that at least some of the heat from OpenWorld, when Benioff and Ellison traded very public barbs over the nature of cloud computing, remains a factor. Benioff was once an executive at Oracle, while Ellison invested millions in Salesforce.com during its formative period.
Benioff has been pushing his "Cloud 2" idea on audiences for several months. During GigaOm founder Om Malik's annual Structure conference in June, he posited Cloud 2 as "a combination of cloud computing, social networking and mobile applications."
"I used to think, back when I started Salesforce, that why isn't all enterprise software like Amazon?" Benioff said at the time. "Now I'm thinking: Why isn't all enterprise software like Facebook?"