Salesforce.com Inc.s effort to enable other vendors to use its CRM service as a platform to deliver additional services is gathering steam and winning over more than a few converts.
The company, based here, rolled out its AppExchange offering last week, along with the Winter 06 edition of its core customer relationship management application. With his usual evangelistic fervor, Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com, talked about his companys plan for providing a common access point and development platform for many kinds of Web applications.
"Our vision is to take killer applications on the Internet and transform that into a platform, just as our predecessors did with the PC," Benioff said during his keynote address at the Winter 06 launch event. "To do that, we need a platform [where developers can] create and publish applications that are secure and scalable in global implementations with local [functionality] like currency. Also, we want mash-ups, like Craigslist integrated with Google. We want to have those mash-ups, but a lot of them, automating business. So weve been working on AppExchange."
To illustrate this concept, George Hu, Salesforce.coms vice president of strategy and marketing, demonstrated an application that combined regional sales reports built with Salesforce.com and Google Inc.s Google Maps. The report links were displayed as balloons over each geographic location.
Another key goal is to give software developers a platform for building on-demand applications to rival Java and .Net in terms of functionality, company officials said. That means a lot of development work for Salesforce.com.
"We had to rebuild our architecture. ... MultiForce was the first version of the AppExchange operating system," said Benioff. "We also had to rebuild our software. We have installed two huge data centers that are now running the Salesforce Winter 06 release—thats a complete rebuild. After that, we replaced all our software and put that onto new hardware. Thats all completed, all running on Winter 06 architecture."
The two new data centers—one on the West Coast, one on the East Coast—were a $50 million investment for Salesforce.com (one data center will be mirrored next month) and will provide the performance to support what the company hopes will be a rapidly growing population of CRM users and AppExchange developers.
The Winter 06 release of Salesforce.coms on-demand CRM software comes with a number of functionality upgrades, including a new user interface and 2.0 versions of Outlook and Office.
The upgraded Outlook offering brings integrated synchronization for better productivity and an upgraded UI. Offline Edition 2.0, contrarily, has been completely re-engineered to bring increased data volumes, field-level conflict resolution and leads, and custom-related lists, officials said.