Salesforce Extends Its Cloud Reach Into the IoT

The company at the Dreamforce show unveils its IoT Cloud, a service that will give businesses a place to store, analyze and act on real-time data.

Salesforce cloud computing

Salesforce wants to use its massive cloud computing capabilities to make it easier for businesses to gain useful, real-time information from the massive amounts of data being generated by the devices that make up the Internet of things.

At the company's Dreamforce 2015 event in San Francisco Sept. 15, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff unveiled the Salesforce IoT Cloud, a new service through which businesses can not only store the data from the billions of IoT devices and applications as well as Websites and social networks, but also can analyze that data in real time and connect it back to Salesforce's customer relationship management (CRM) software.

The result is businesses can quickly get the information they need to bring new products and services to their customers, improve user experience and operate more efficiently, according to Salesforce officials. It's part of a larger shift where business is becoming more "customer-centric," as connected devices meet growing and changing consumer expectations, according to Adam Bosworth, executive vice president at Salesforce.

"Devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) are at the core of this transformation," Bosworth wrote in a post on the company blog. "They generate massive amounts of data and companies have started to capture and store billions of data events every day. But storing it isn't enough. This revolution is about proactively engaging computers and people to resolve issues or grab opportunities. Responses must be intelligent, actionable, personal, and in real-time."

This is where the Salesforce IoT Cloud comes in, officials said. The new service is powered by Thunder, the vendor's highly scalable, real-time event processing engine, which will enable businesses to sort through and make sense of the huge amounts of data that they have access to. And that amount of data will only grow.

The numbers vary depending on who is talking, but the IoT is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years. Cisco System officials have said they expect the number of connected devices to grow from 25 billion last year to more than 50 billion by 2020. Other forecasts put the number a little lower or higher—Salesforce officials in their announcement said it will grow to 75 billion devices.

But there's no question the amount of data being generated will only accelerate as well, as more devices—from cars and home appliances to wearable computers and sensors—become connected. Company officials noted that more than 90 percent of the world's data has been created in the past two years.

Many businesses aren't equipped to handle the deluge of data. They can't store it all, much less parse through it and create actionable information, according to Salesforce's Bosworth. So company officials decided they could step in and help.

"Our focus is delivering tools to help our customers do anything," he wrote. "And not just the serious developers. We want to empower every business user and analyst to solve big problems around big data too. We recognize that what our customers need is an application that is truly intelligent, caring, and proactive, because that is what their customers want. This is true for every industry and every size of company."

Salesforce IoT Cloud lets businesses not only connect to a broad array of things—devices, applications, Websites and social networks, but also gives users tools to manage the data and define rules and policies to make the cloud help them better understand their customers. The cloud service also works with Salesforce's Customer Success Platform to gain insights and develop real-time, personalized actions for everything from sales and marketing to services using other platforms, such as Salesforce's Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.

As an example, they noted that a thermostat provider can quickly go through huge amounts of data gathered from weather forecasts, sensors and temperature settings to alert customers how to more efficiently manage their use of air conditioning or heating systems.

Salesforce officials said the IoT Cloud will be in pilot during the first half of 2016, and will generally be available later in the year. The company is working with several partners—ARM, Etherios, Informatica, PTC ThingWorx and Xively LogMeIn—to help drive adoption of the service. Salesforce plans to expand the number of IoT partners, officials said.