For the last 4 days, I’ve had a lovely time out in San Francisco, California at Salesforce.com’s 2010 Dreamforce show which was attended by north of 30,000 attendees. I’ve been to most of the Dreamforce events, as this is now my third company that uses Salesforce.com in their day-to-day operations. In our case, we’re heavy users though with nearly a 100% adoption of their entire product footprint. The massive adoption that we have here at Shavlik opened up some interesting opportunities for us to shake hands with the other Salesforce elites and see what is new in their business and what we have to look forward to in the future.
Although I’ve been to most Dreamforce events, this year’s conference was extremely different. The conference itself was billed as “The Cloud Convention” which brought out a fascinating cross-section of people to the conference. Although the majority of the conference was filled with Salesforce customers, partners and personnel, there was a large group of attendees that were not Salesforce.com customers, many of them NetSuite or Microsoft CRM users that were showing up at the conference because they wanted to observe how the Cloud is affecting other companies and hear more about the impact of the cloud on theirs. One such attendee told me, “I’ve got 3 years left with my current provider, I’m not switching.” Those examples of people attending to understand the cloud show me a few things:
- Congratulations to Salesforce.com: They have gone from a CRM company to a Cloud leader. In and of itself, that’s impressive. This conference was more of a cloud conference and not so much a product conference. It’ll be interesting to see if Dreamforce 2011 (which is in August by the way) will carry that theme forward.
- Cloud is the single biggest IT trend going on today: When customers that are not using the cloud are coming to understand and discuss it with an expert, that’s a lot of power. It’s more real and gaining immense inertia.
- Cloud has turned the corner: It was funny, the number of people that responded to me that they chose the cloud in part due to security concerns was very high. Think about that! – A year ago, when I told people we were a cloud SaaS provider, the first concern was security… now people recognize it as a benefit! That’s amazing.
Beyond the Cloud observations, there were two other market observations that I’ll make. First off, social integration isn’t a choice, but an imperative. Salesforce.com was discussing their advancement of Chatter and how over 66,000 of their customers have adopted the platform in some format which is impressive given they have around 85,000 total customers. An adoption rate like that is borderline ludicrous. For those of you that don’t know, Chatter is “Facebook” for business. It’s an impressive paradigm for collaboration, and I see a ton of value with it.
The “Social Invasion” I noticed was underscored numerous times throughout the event. As one of the fundraisers for the UCSF Benioff Hospital, the game maker Zynga (Makers of FarmVille, Mafia wars and countless other social games) created a new purchasable item called “Candy Canes” which Farmville users could buy and plant, and the proceeds were benefiting the UCSF Benihoff Hospital. In only a few days, Zynga had raised a seemingly impossible amount of money for the cause surpassing over $850,000 dollars. When you think about that, that’s a lot of Candy Canes! But at the same time, with Chatter, Zynga’s example and countless other examples that I can point to, social integration is coming and it’s important we all recognize the impact of it.
Second, whomever said “Green IT was dead” last year was totally wrong. A typical conversation at Dreamforce went, “How are you using the cloud? How are you using Chatter? What Green initiatives are you embarking on?” Without a doubt, Green IT is back and in force. What is funny though is the two camps that exist on this issue:
- Vendors want to be green, but don’t want to have to be burdened with it. I heard from a bunch of people that said, “Yeah, we’re trying to be better on the green initiatives but at the same time, it’s so hard to do with our other priorities.” They all acknowledged their efforts have been more of an afterthought, but carbon management is becoming more talked about.
- Customers want to make green choices. With so many elite users of Salesforce at my fingertips, as we discussed green I asked how it would affect a purchase decision. The majority of customers admitted that it would be a prime consideration, but in the event of a bake-off on features, a green vendor was chosen over one that was less-environmentally focused.
So on the green side, that was great to hear. We’ve given some thought on this front… look forward to some work we’re going to do there.
Who Moved my Cheese?
Back in 2002, I was at a Dreamforce event in some small hotel room in California. Now, the event takes over the entire Moscone North, South and West conference facilities. I don’t know how many millions of square feet the conference consumes, but it was massive. At the same time, Salesforce.com whom I originally chose as a CRM SaaS platform so many moons ago, has become a Platform as a Service (PaaS) for my current business at Shavlik. Out of nowhere, Salesforce.com shocked the market this year with the announcement of Database.com. – This means Salesforce.com, the original SaaS had moved to a PaaS and now is doing Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). … SaaS -> PaaS -> IaaS. Congratulations to their team on some of the best engineering I’ve ever witnessed. For those of you that can’t guess, more than likely, I’ll be paying close attention to their IaaS offering and perhaps jump on-board to bring my business to the next level.
But wait, there’s more… On Wednesday at their Keynote presentation, moments before it was about to begin my phone lit up like a Christmas tree with tweets, newswire stories and media commentary. Salesforce.com announced their definitive agreement to acquire Heroku, makers of a cloud-based Ruby on Rails implementation. This was huge. In a world where open matters, Heroku is the key example of how open can change the path of technology. Their Ruby on Rails platform has enabled tens of thousands of developers to create Ruby based applications in the cloud without having to run a data-center. Also, the announcement means Salesforce.com is keeping their interfaces more open, more targeted at development growth… which I can’t tell you how much I really do appreciate.
Congratulations to the Heroku team on a match with Salesforce.com that will definitely be impactful to both of their development communities.
I do think it is necessary to recognize Salesforce.com again for putting together an exceptional conference. Their platform has grown extraordinarily well through the years, and when a conference has singers like Stevie Wonder, Will.i.am, and Neil Young on stage, you know the organization is taking a conscious effort to ensure their “fun” atmosphere is received and understood by their clients. In the case of Dreamforce 2010, they definitely accomplished that. In closing though, I have to level with everyone, one of my favorite parts of the conference was watching my account executive at Salesforce.com, Chad Katoff doing Karaoke to MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” at a bar which was closed, but we convinced them to open back up to allow us to sing for a while. That was too cool… too funny…
I now leave San Francisco, headed back home after a very long, very intense week. Salesforce.com definitely surprised me this week and taught me to expect the unexpected from them. It’s great to see.