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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Marc Ferrentino, CTA Of Salesforce (Part 2)

Posted on Sunday, Jul 17th 2011

Sramana Mitra: So, let’s talk about the concept of platform as a service a bit more. How do you view the world today? There are obviously different camps emerging. There is the Salesforce.com stack, so to speak, and then there is the Azure stack, the Google app engine and a [Google] stack emerging. But there are missing pieces in the Google stack – and the reason we know a lot about that is because we have a company in One Million by One Million  called OrangeScape that is actually filling one of these gaps. So, how do you see this world evolving?

Marc Ferrentino: I think there are going to be local winners. I don’t think it’s a winner-take-all environment. We are talking about the entire world of information technology, the entire world of technology startups; and there are going to be a lot of winners, I think, in this case.

SM: What applications do you think are going to go to platform as a service rather than software as a service and infrastructure as a service?

MF: That is a great question, and I guess the way I am looking at it right now, it is going to take a long time. You have to have a lot of factors in place before people running larger organizations will run everything in the cloud. Some of it is just advertising their investment: They spend XYZ on certain implementations, and they need to wait till they can turn the run-off for the expense of that particular item. But I guess the way I have been looking at it, there are three tiers of applications, and this is something I get to talk about a lot, actually. A lot of it is the way it is phrased, and it is a small world in apps.

There are systems of innovation, systems of differentiation, and systems of record. And I really like this concept of different tiers. You may have different enterprise architectures for these different tiers, so we look at the systems of innovation, we are talking a lot about a lot of point projects, maybe marketing projects where you are trying something new. You want to be first and be nimble and get out there, but you not really sure what it is going to be. Certain enhancement processes  take place. It is an area where people can play and move fast, and the cost of failure is very low. A lot of organizations are starting to adopt that concept. We are starting to hear that from an increasing number of CIOs, which is terrific when you think about it. It is more like the model that Google takes, and that is how they approach project development.

I think the system of differentiation is where many SaaS players have played to date. When you look what differentiates a company from other companies, a lot of that concerns how you sell to people and how you service them once they have bought your product, once they are a customer. The other thing people miss a lot is your employment brand.  It is no coincidence that the best places to work are also the best companies are also the top companies within the Fortune 500. It is not a coincidence because the companies that understand the employment brand are really focused on making a company a great place to work and focusing on collaboration.

Those companies, you see, would most likely be the last ones to move to the cloud. And in some cases they may not move to the cloud; I will point out that in some cases it may be that from a business point of view, it just may not just be something that a company wants to deal with. But I think that would be a loss, there would be a lot of one-offs in that case, but this move is going to take a while in a lot  of cases.  We are definitely seeing those first two tiers moving to the cloud at a rapid pace, and that is where systems differentiation is an area we play quite a bit in, so our growth is directly tied to those kinds of applications.

So, when we talk about growth in cloud adoption, we are really talking about the growth of Salesforce.com around companies wanting to be more agile in how they handle their customers; they want to have better conversations with their customers where they are able to collaborate with customers as partners and suppliers in real time and bring them into the brand, bring them in on the inside, make them insiders. And it goes both ways. As much as it is about customers contributing, it is also about companies giving feedback and the virtuous cycle that emerges within that conversation.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Marc Ferrentino, CTA Of Salesforce
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