SAN FRANCISCO-After outlining his company’s concept of exactly what software as a service means to Salesforce.com-a multitenant architecture and subscription-based services-CEO Marc Benioff dazzled the audience of mostly developers at the company’s Tour de Force campaign kickoff Jan. 17 with a dizzying array of statistics.
Throughout his keynote address Benioff ticked off Salesforce.com milestones-impressive by any standard for a 9-year-old company:
- 24 major releases in the last eight years; in excess of a billion dollars in revenue by the next fiscal year
- 38,000 customers; one million subscribers
- 130 million transactions a day at the average speed of 2.5 milliseconds
- 160,000 SQL statements every second
- 24 billion API calls (that’s customer’s computers accessing Salesforce.com’s computers 1.6 billion times a month)
- 79,000 workflow rules written
- 1.6 million lines of Apex code written. And it’s only been in production for six months.
Given the company’s massive push into the platform-as-a-service world with Force.com-about 50 percent of Salesforce developers spend their time enhancing the company’s flagship CRM (customer relationship management) software while the other 50 percent build out the platform-Benioff wants to make sure Salesforce.com is moving in the right direction.
“We’re working hard to become the first billion dollar SAAS company,” Benioff said. “Our third quarter was outstanding and we’ve given guidance that next year we will exceed one billion dollars [in revenue]. This is important. We want to show that SAAS is real; it’s here and we are a success.”
“We now have more than 38,000 customers and more than one million subscribers,” he said. “It’s an important time. And the reason this has all happened is because of you, our customers, partners, ISVs. We recognize that every day. What we want to hear from you is do you like it? Are we are on the right track? The only way we will be successful is by listening to our customers.”
Benioff said the questions he and his cohorts at Salesfore.com get asked the most are essentially the basics: What’s next? And what Internet trends will impact SAAS? “We’re asking these questions internally,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons we’re going on the road-to find out what you want us to focus on.”
A Force In the Cloud Maybe, but Still Proprietary
Answering his own musing, Benioff paraphrased The New York Times, Business Week and industry analyst group IDC in saying that the next major shift is the cloud, as in cloud computing. “We see that happening,” said Benioff. “The cloud is empowering the developer-all they have to have is a [Internet] connection and they can be anywhere in the world and tap into the cloud, with no server under the desk.”
Salesforce.com has come a long way toward enabling cloud development with the Force.com platform and the definition of platform as a service, or PAAS, though not without its detractors. Some analysts-and competitors-argue that the world doesn’t need another proprietary programming language-on demand or not. That said, Salesforce.com is clearly doing something right, since it’s not going to remain a party of one for long. Aside from industry stalwarts Oracle, Microsoft and SAP entering the market with multitenant, subscription-based CRM software with the specific goal of beating Salesforce.com, each company is, either quietly (like Microsoft) or publicly (like SAP) also building an on-demand development platform.
At the same time, other companies are emerging with the PAAS model.
WebEx, for example, is building an on-demand collaboration platform, while Amazon.com-not just for shopping junkies any more-is said to be launching a Web services platform in April.
During his keynote address Benioff invited Marc Andreessen on stage to give his vision of the state of the emerging on-demand platform market. Andreessen is probably best known as the co-founder of Mosaic, the first widely used Web browser, but he’s also the co-founder of Netscape, Loudcloud and now Ning, his latest venture that provides a platform for social networking sites. So far Ning’s customers have developed 150,000 different networks that range in topic and scope from family and religious-based sites to political and health care hubs.
Andreessen said he believes the PAAS wave is just beginning.
“I think there’s going to be a whole range, thousands of platform companies,” said Andreessen. “There’s a common definition of what a platform is: It means you can program it …. This shift to the Internet, the cloud, or whatever you want to call it, is a very, very big deal from many different perspectives. Seven or eight years ago significant companies started launching Web services-eBay gets a huge percentage of revenues that come through its Web services API, so we’ve seen a whole wave of Web services APIs. Now we’re seeing a whole second wave of Internet plug-in APIs; there were thousands of new applications launched on Facebook that run somewhere else on the network. Then there’s a third wave-Salesforece.com, Ning, Amazon-that [offer] fully hosted platforms where code gets uploaded in the cloud.”
Despite all the endorsements behind PAAS and cloud computing, it seems Salesforce.com just needs a little love from the developer community.