Posted by: drmiw | February 11, 2009

The Force is strong in Cloud City

I made it into London just once last week, during a brief blizzard break. I took part in an open forum breakfast meeting on Reaching the Cloud on the 24th floor of Tower 42, hosted by SaleForce.com — along with representatives from prestigious organisations like BT, IBM, Visa, and The Guardian. Cloud computing is certainly being taken seriously by big enterprises now, and Salesforce.com are marketing their Force.com software platform to them with a vengeance; but is their technology any good?

As I looked out at the City from high up on its tallest building, I thought of its proud past and present as a world centre of international commerce, and I wondered what the future holds for the Square Mile and the rest of London. What does geography matter when business heads are in the clouds? Will talent migrate away from the traditional centres as travel becomes more expensive and less necessary and virtual meetings become more like the real thing?

Anyway, returning to the there and then I was reporting on. The forum was interesting, although it mostly consisted of success stories from Saleforce.com customers and a few words from the sponsors. Simon O’Kane, Salesforce.com Sales Director, said:

We have a vision for businesses to replace their whole IT infrastructure and run it in the cloud.

But they have no plans to go beyond CRM themselves, their product map is focussed on what they do best, and they are relying on partners and customers to take their software platform and extend it. And I must say that I was impressed by the 30 minute demo that followed the open forum as an expenses application with workflow, alerts and authorisation functionality was built from scratch using only a web browser. The application development layers from the high level Build-it-Now, to Visual Force, and, finally, the Apex code at the bottom, are a potent and powerful combination.

It had been quite a while since I had had any dealings with Salesforce.com, but I’m glad I braved the elements for this event. A few years ago Extrasys pitched an idea to them for hosted Microsoft applications to be added to their AppExchange, but, unsurprisingly, their board rejected this opportunity because they have always positioned themselves as the anti-Microsoft rebels. Now they are competing directly with Microsoft for cloud computing market share as the Empire strikes back with its Software plus Services offerings. (Did you get the Star Wars references in this post’s title?)

It’s going to be fun watching the race for cloud computing dominance in the months and years to come, and, just like BT with its multiple partnerships, Extrasys will work with all the big players to help customers choose the hosted IT services that are right for them.

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