Dreamforce: The Intersection of New Hope and New IT

NEWS ANALYSIS: With Tier 1 motivational speakers such as Tony Robbins and Richard Branson to go with always-upbeat Salesforce CEO and founder Marc Benioff, the event seemed more like a religious revival than an IT users' conference.

SAN FRANCISCO -- There was plenty of news Sept. 19 amid the three-ring-circus event that is Salesforce's Dreamforce X here at the Moscone Center, where some 90,000 people are wandering, eating, drinking, making deals and talking cloud for the next few days. See eWEEK's coverage for the news details.

/images/stories/eweek.logo.analysis1.jpgThe behind-the-news story, however, was very different at this event. Here, smack in the middle of a sluggishly recovering world and national macroeconomy is a business conference that is as upbeat, self-confident and raucous as any that can be imagined.

Never mind the continuous live rock and blues music onstage in the middle of closed-off Howard Street. (Rapper M.C. Hammer performed during the morning keynote session and Red Hot Chili Peppers and Lady Antebellum were on the evening bill.) Forget the brightly costumed "No Software" avatars walking around the grounds or all the company operatives handing out tchotchkes.

/images/stories/Dreamforce.logo.jpgDreamforce Likened to Religious Revival

With Tier 1 motivational speakers such as Tony Robbins and Richard Branson to go with always-upbeat Salesforce CEO and founder Marc Benioff, the event seemed more like a religious revival than an IT users' conference. The only things missing were the "Amens!" and "Hallelujahs!" Homage was paid to patron saints of IT like Thomas Watson, Steve Jobs ("a true prophet of our industry," Benioff said), Bill Gates, Ken Olsen, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and Mark Zuckerberg. Exceedingly loud music poured from speakers all over the auditorium.

But there seemed to be a high-level explanation for all of this upbeat activity.

"This is really the intersection of new hope in the emerging economy with an entirely new and different business model that gets people really excited," Brian Babineau, a vice president and analyst at industry researcher Enterprise Strategy Group, told eWEEK. "The real story here is the optimism of a new generation in all the new IT that's being developed to run businesses."

The rah-rah use of emotion was the way Oracle used to run its shows 20 years ago, Babineau said. Oracle OpenWorld, coming to San Francisco in two weeks, doesn't use the same approach anymore.

"Back then [in the early '90s], the parallel database was the new model for business; you could run your entire business on it, and Oracle would show you the way to do it. Now it's Salesforce, showing the way through the cloud model," he said.

Emotion and optimism are certainly the key characteristics of this show. One sales executive told eWEEK that "Dreamforce is one of the most emotional IT shows there is. It's the Woodstock of IT, only we keep our clothes on."

That's what sets Dreamforce apart from most other IT conferences: the zeal of the company itself, and the infectious nature of it all. And it starts at the top with Benioff, one of the most charismatic leaders in the IT world.

New Products Back Up the Optimism

Behind all of this sizzle, however, are product updates that certainly move Salesforce ahead of such competitors as Oracle, SAP and others.

"There is crazy excitement of some 90,000 people coming together, yet there is some serious product news and progress on the platform side coming from Dreamforce," IDC analyst Al Hilwa wrote in a media advisory.

"Having mobile access to the Salesforce application from a variety of devices is a great new development and much needed, but the platform and social investments are even more critical to Salesforce in the long run. Salesforce rightly understands that building a strong and durable application business is inseparable from building an application and developer ecosystem."

The Salesforce platform is broadening to encompass many essential services, such as file storage and identity management, that a complete platform has to provide to be a hub of developer and ISV interest, Hilwa said.

"One of the most important things I heard about is surfacing of social APIs to developers and integration of social functions into the developer platform," Hilwa said. "The most exciting hard-core things they are doing for developers are probably the Force.com Canvas, which provides a framework for integrating applications written in other programming languages into Force.com.

"In essence the company is showing significant progress in integrating the Heroku acquisition with the established Force.com platform which has been historically used to extend the Salesforce applications. Now you can write Ruby or Java apps that use Force.com metadata and context."

Stay tuned to eWEEK. There's more to come.

Chris Preimesberger is Editor for Features and Analysis at eWEEK. Twitter: @editingwhiz

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...