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Why Salesforce Is Winning The Cloud Platform War

300px-Salesforce_Logo_2009The future of any enterprise software vendor is being decided today in their developer community.

Alex William’s insightful thoughts on Salesforce Is A Platform Company. Period. underscores how rapidly Salesforce is maturing as a cloud platform.  And the best measure of that progress can be seen in their developer community.

(To be clear, Salesforce and the other companies mentioned in this post are not clients and never have been.  I track this area out of personal interest.)

DevZone force.com

The last four years I’ve made a point at every Salesforce Dreamforce event to spend the majority of my time in the developer area.  Watching mini hacks going on in the DevZone, mini workshops, the Salesforce Platform and Developer keynotes over the last few years has been a great learning experience.  An added plus: developers are often skeptical and want to see new enhancements help streamline their code, extend its functionality, and push the limits of the Force.com platform. This healthy skepticism has led to needed improvements in the Force.com platform, including a change to governor limits on Application Programmer Interface (APIs) performance and many other enhancements.  Despite the criticisms of Force.com being proprietary due to Apex and SOQL, the crowds at developer forums continue to grow every year.

I’ve started to look at the developer area as the crucible or foundry for future apps.  While the Cloud Expo shows how vibrant the partner ecosystem is, the developer area is where tomorrow’s apps are being coded today. The Force.com Workbook, an excellent reference for Force.com developers, was just released October 1 and DeveloperForce shows how far the developer support is matured in Salesforce.  In addition a new Force.com REST API Developer’s Guide is out just last month.

The Journey From Application To Platform

In visiting the developer area of Dreamforce over the last four years I’ve seen indications that Salesforce is successfully transforming itself into a cloud platform business:

  • Significant jump in the quantity and quality of developer attendees from 2010 to 2012.  The depth of questions, sophistication of code samples, calls for more flexibility with governor limits, and better mobile support typified these years.
  • Steady improvement to visual design tools, application development environment and support for jQuery, Sencha and Apache Cordova.
  • The steady maturation of Salesforce Touch as a mobile development platform and launch of Salesforce Platform Mobile Services Launched in 2011, this platform continues to mature, driven by developer’s requirements that reflect their customers’ needs for mobility support.  HTML 5 is supported and the apps I’ve seen written on it are fast, accurate and ideal for customer service.  ServiceMax has created exceptional mobile apps including their comprehensive ServiceMax for iPad app on the Force.com platform.
  • 2012: Rise of the Mobile Enterprise Developer.  Salesforce’s enterprise customers in 2009 weren’t nearly as active as they were last year with questions on legacy systems integration and how to create web services capable of integrating customer data.  2011 was a breakout year in mobile app development with 2012 showing strong momentum on mobile web services development.  I expect this year’s Dreamforce developer community to reflect the rapidly growing interest in mobile as well.

How Enterprise Applications Make The Salesforce Platform Work For Them

In speaking with Salesforce developers over the years one of my favorite questions continues to be “what is the real payoff of having a native Force.com application in your company?”  Initially I thought this was marketing spin from enterprise software vendors attempting to use features as benefits, however after a closer look it is clear that the platform has significant advantages, especially for any solution requiring global deployments or large numbers of users.  Here is what I found out:

  • The investments Salesforce.com has made in their cloud infrastructure over several years (and continue to make) has resulted in a platform that developers  are leveraging to rapidly deliver enterprise applications that deliver world-class performance, reliability, and security.
  • Of the many native Force.com applications that extend Salesforce beyond CRM, it’s been my experience the most challenging are Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) and contract management.  Creating a single system of record across these two areas is challenging even outside of Force.com, which is why many companies in this space have two entirely different product strategies.  Apttus is the exception as they have successfully created a unified product strategy on Force.com alone.  I recently had the chance to speak with Neehar Giri, President and Chief Solutions Architect.  “Apttus’ strategic decision to deliver our enterprise-class applications natively on the Salesforce platform has allowed us to focus on our customer needs, meeting and exceeding their expectations in both functionality and speed of innovation,” said Neehar Giri, president and chief solutions architect, Apttus.  “We’ve seen the platform evolve rapidly in its capabilities and global scalability.  Apttus’ customers have and continue to benefit from the true multi- tenancy, world class security, reliability and performance of the Salesforce Platform.”
  • Salesforce.com’s multi-tenant architecture allows for optimization of computing resources resulting in savings and significant gains in efficiency for global enterprises even over applications deployed on private clouds.
  • Native Force.com applications share the same security model as Salesforce apps.  Financialforce.com chose to develop their accounting, ordering and billing, professional services automation and service resource planning entirely on the Force.com architecture due to shared master data, multi- tenancy, world class security, reliability and performance.  This shared architecture also benefits enterprise consumers of native applications by providing best-in-class uptime.
  • Native Force.com applications are contributing to greater return on investment (ROI). IT often does not need to manage data integration or sync issues, upgrades to even large numbers of users are easily deployed, and users can remain in a familiar interface.   These benefits support faster and easier deployment as well as rapid user adoption both of which are critical to success and a high ROI for any solution. Enterprise developers have often mentioned the familiar interface and ease of deployment have led to higher rates of adoption than any other approach to delivering new application functionality.
  • Advanced APIs to support integration of legacy applications not on the Force.com platform.
  • Proven ability of Salesforce.com to support global deployments.  The company has expanded its global support centers.  Salesforce.com also publishes real-time statistics on system status: http://trust.salesforce.com/trust/.
  • A continuing acceleration of new capabilities resulting from increasing numbers of developers driving the advancement of the platform through their collective input, suggestions and requirements.
  • Ability to design applications that respond with greater customer insight and intelligence across mobile devices.  ServiceMax has an impressive series of mobile applications that do this today.  I had a chance to speak with David Yarnold, their CEO about his vision for the company.  He wants to give ServiceMax’s customers the ability to deliver flawless field service where every interaction is perfect.  By building on the Force.com architecture he explained how each service customers’ contextual intelligence can be seen in real-time by everyone involved in serving customers.  Clearly ServiceMax is capitalizing on the mobile development platform area of Force.com as well.

Bottom Line: Enabling developers to attain greater revenue growth, while creating an extensive mobile app development platform is further proof Salesforce has turned the corner from being an application company to a platform provider.

Best- And Worst-Performing Cloud Computing Stocks Through Q3, 2013

cloud-computing-stock-update-October-2013-300x225The five highest-performing cloud computing stocks as of Q3, 2013 in the Cloud Computing Stock Index have proven prowess in closing enterprise-level deals, expertise in compliance and security, and years of infrastructure experience.

Twelve of the nineteen companies in the index delivered a positive return in the first three quarters of this year.  NetSuite (NYSE:N) leads all companies in the index with an annualized gain as of calendar Q3 of 88.69% and has a dollar value of $16,078 on $10,000 invested on January 2nd of this year.    Workday (NYSE:WDAY) attained an annualized gain of 81.49% as of Q3, and has a dollar value of $15,617 on $10,000 invested on January 2nd.  Qualys (NASDAQ: QLYS) attained an annualized gain of 49.33% and delivered $13,498 on $10,000 invested from January 2nd to October 2nd of this year.  The following table lists the top best performing cloud computing stocks in the index.

Best Performing 

high-performing-cloud-computing-stocks

Worst Performing

Seven of the nineteen companies in the index lost value, with Fusion-IO (NYSE:FIO) experiencing the greatest annualized loss in stock value of -51.03% and $10,000 invested on January 2nd of this year being worth $5,862 as of October 2nd.  Rackspace (NYSE:RAX) had an annualized loss of -38.61%, with $10,000 invested on January 2nd being worth $6,943 as of October 2nd.  The following table shows the five lowest-performing cloud computing stocks in the index.

low-performing-cloud-computing-stocks

The nineteen companies that comprise the Cloud Computing Stock Index attained a 19.41% return from October 3, 2012 to October 2, 2013.  In the same period Microsoft gained 13.98%, Oracle, 7.05% and SAP, 4.83%. Please click on the index to expand it for easier viewing.

CLOUD-INDEX-FOR-A-YEAR

Specifics on the Cloud Computing Stock Index

I used The Cloud Times 100 as the basis of the index, selecting nineteen companies all of which are publically traded.  The latest edition of the Cloud Computing Stock Index is shown here.  The filter applied to these companies is that 50% or more of their revenues are generated from cloud-based applications, infrastructure and services.  Please click on the index for easier viewing.

clous-computing-stock-index-October-2-20132-1024x351

Note: I do not hold equity positions or work for any of the companies mentioned in this blog post or included in the Cloud Computing Stock Index.  

451 Research Summit: Enterprises Competing With Digital Infrastructure & Cloud Computing

bellagio1Enterprises are defining their own cloud strategies, their own way, ignoring vendor hype and requiring metrics that reflect security (61%), mean-time-to-recover from outages (57%), number of data center outages (51%).

This and many insights were gained from attending the 451 Research Hosting and Cloud Transformation Summit at the Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas last week. 451 Research provided a free pass to the event but did not cover travel, hotel or meals.

What’s refreshing about 451 Group’s conferences is that each of their companies including 451 Research, Uptime Institute, and Yankee Group rely on solid methodologies to research their coverage areas and markets. This results in presentations that are packed with insight and are based on a solid foundation of interviews and research.  I had a chance to catch up with SoftLayer’s Lance CrosbySimon West and Andre Fuochi for an update on how the IBM acquisition is going, which is summarized in this post as well.  The slides shown are from Michelle Bailey, Vice President, Datacenter Initiatives and Digital Infrastructure’s excellent presentation given at the conference.

The following are the key take-aways from the summit:

  • Enterprises are defining their own cloud strategies, their own way, ignoring vendor hype and requiring metrics that reflect security (61%), mean-time-to-recover from outages (57%), number of data center outages (51%). When asked which metrics beyond Service Level Agreements (SLAs) service providers should report, respondents to the 451 Research survey provided the following insights, shown below:

  • The top three SaaS applications in two years will be for the enterprise, business support, and database platforms per 451 Research’s latest survey:

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) growth is critical to off-premises hosting deployments succeeding in the next two years, as the following graphic illustrates:

  • 80%of enterprises would experience a severe impact to their operations if there was a cloud outage of just a day which make security and availability must-haves for any hosting and cloud services provider.  The following graphic breaks down the impact of service provider outage by time:
  • Worldwide Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is projected to grow from $4.475B in 2013 to $10.23B in 2016, with Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) growing from $2.23B in 2013 to $5.24B in 2016.  The following slide provides a breakout of forecast categories by hosting and cloud business categories:

Why Enterprises Need A Digital Infrastructure Playbook

The focal point of the summit was the launch of the digital infrastructure playbook.  Tony Bishop, Chief Strategy Officer, The 451 Group introduced the Digital Enterprise Playbook Series which you can download here. His presentation provided insights into how enterprises are struggling to align legacy IT, infrastructure including data centers, cloud, applications and system management to business goals while becoming more agile.

I had a chance to speak with Tony after his presentation and asked him why enterprises need a digital infrastructure playbook now.   “Digital transformation is breaking down the barriers to sustainable global prosperity by shifting power towards the individual,” he said. “This revolution will transform how enterprises create and deliver value. Digital enterprises will pursue and build dynamic infrastructure capabilities to innovate and differentiate customer experience, constantly empower employees and disseminate prescriptive knowledge across the enterprise.”

One of the most passionate and knowledgeable people I’ve ever met in infrastructure and IT research is Martin McCarthy, Chairman and CEO, The 451 Group.  He told me he’s seeing more pressure than ever for edge-to-core integration in the enterprise, which is forcing CIOs to be strategists over experts in cost reduction.  “Digital infrastructure will be the backbone enabling enterprise transformation in coming years. To blaze this trail, organizations need an ‘edge to core’ digital infrastructure playbook,” he said.   Presented below is a page from the Digital Enterprise Playbook Series:

The eight-striper wordmark of IBM, the letters...

IBM SoftLayer Update

  • IBM’s acquisition of SoftLayer is going excellently and many IBM divisions now are actively collaborating with the Softlayer team to migrate existing apps and develop new ones. Thank you Lance CrosbySimon West and Andre Fuochi for the update provided at the conference, it was invaluable.
  • Softlayer will be the foundation for a global cloud services infrastructure capable of delivering applications across multiple continents and thousands of users within hours, not days.  Lance Crosby explained the vision IBM has of delivering a continual stream of new applications and services over the global cloud services infrastructure network, which has the potential to turn into a high margin business quickly.
  • Softlayer is assisting with making the IBM Request for Proposal (RFP) more efficient based on their deep expertise in this critical area. Based on personal experience it can take anywhere from several weeks to up to several months for an RFP response.  SoftLayer has devised processes and systems that make RFP response times a fraction of that.
  • The majority of the top ten customers Softlayer has today are running large-scale clusters of Hadoop, with 40 Hadoop clusters being commonplace.  Lance Crosby mentioned these customers are very sophisticated in their use of Hadoop and many of them are in consumer products companies, looking to gain greater insights into customer behavior.
  • Bare metal servers running Hadoop are one of the fastest growing areas of the Softlayer business right now.  Simon West made an excellent point that running Hadoop on bare metal servers instead of through virtualized environment leads to a higher level of throughput, given Softlayer’s internal testing results.  Bare metal servers continue to accelerate in the industry and Softlayer’s executives confirmed they are seeing an acceleration of demand in this area.
  • An additional six data centers are planned for 2014, and SoftLayer has the capability to build one data center every two months of needed.  When asked what the global expansion plans are for SoftLayer since the acquisition, Lance Crosby told me London and Germany are of primary interest.  He also added that whenever the demand for a given nation reached between four and five thousand servers, Softlayer and IBM will consider building a data center in-country.
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