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Salesforce boss Benioff pushes cloud

Pours scorn on Microsoft, bear hugs Sir Stelios

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Salesforce.com boss Marc Benioff yesterday robustly elaborated on the firm's plans to push yet more services on to the cloud with the official launch of Visualforce.

Speaking at the company's Dreamforce event at the Barbican centre in London, Benioff took the opportunity in front of a crowd of some 2,000 European partners and customers, to outline his Web 3.0 vision.

He said Salesforce.com is no longer just a purveyor of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technology, it's now gunning for Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) too.

Benioff said that as part of its "evolving" vision the firm has taken existing collaborative services used by "pioneering" online companies such as Google and Amazon and plumped them up by using the power of cloud computing and services.

Visualforce, which is expected to land in the next 60 days, is a new tool that will play a leading role in the company's PaaS biz product line. Customers can build custom user interfaces for apps running on the Salesforce.com hosted infrastructure.

Up to now Salesforce.com has been best known for its SaaS customer relationship management (CRM) applications aimed squarely at businesses.

But following on from last month's Silicon Valley love-in with Google in which its CRM platform was integrated with Google Apps, Benioff is clearly on a mission to push everything up into the cloud.

He also took the opportunity yesterday to take several digs at Microsoft by, perhaps prematurely, declaring that application development platforms were dead in the water.

“We have been told or brain-washed or hypnotised – you pick the word which is right for you – to go down the infrastructure route... Those days are over," he said. "The world has changed."

Of course Microsoft, which has recently been punting its software-plus-service biz model with the launch of a preview of Live Mesh last month, might soon be in a position to agree with Benioff's claims. The reality in the meantime, however, is that it continues to flog the majority of its offerings on the increasingly quaint-looking compact disc.

EasyJet chairman and founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou was also wheeled out at the event as a high-profile Salesforce.com customer. Watching Benioff and Stelios chew the fat on stage was a bit like seeing two bears playfully pawing each other.

Benioff asked Stelios to explain how Salesforce.com has transformed the way Easyjet runs its business. The cheap airline boss couldn't really nail it in an eloquent fashion, but instead he jumped on what for many is the main concern about pushing everything up on to the cloud.

"All our intellectual property rests with you. I hope you're robust," he said. ®

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