In 2008, we saw the early seeds of a “cloud of clouds” emerging. It started in April with Salesforce and Google announcing integration between Google Apps and Salesforce to bridge the gap between Google’s productivity applications and Salesforce. Later in the year, at Dreamforce, Salesforce expanded the idea of a “cloud of clouds” by announcing integrations with Facebook (for social graph information) and with Amazon (for raw computing infrastructure). Salesforce ended the year with a bang, by announcing Force.com for Google App Engine. In a period of 12 months, Salesforce laid the seeds of a “cloud of clouds” bringing together the strengths of multiple, complementary, on-demand platforms to create a “virtual platform” for the industry.
The “cloud of clouds” expands around connected platforms. We’ll see increasing investment from Microsoft, IBM, and other traditional software players in new but siloed cloud platforms. At the same time, proponents of a more open approach like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Salesforce will push more and deeper “cloud connections” like they did this year – creating a more heated debate between the value of siloed versus federated platforms.
What this means for customers
Customers will face a choice in 2009 about where to focus their investment in cloud computing. Companies like Microsoft and IBM are building cloud offerings that recreate the old software paradigm using new infrastructure (both offerings warrant a prediction of their own, coming soon). This will offer customers some incremental cost-savings and slightly more flexibility, but does not enable anything fundamentally new.
What is unique about the “cloud of clouds” is the ability to connect realms of software that have never been connected in the past, e.g., business applications, collaboration applications and social applications. This enables increases in both efficiency (through improved productivity) and effectiveness (through insight and new connections between information). A few examples:
- Allow communication and collaboration in the context of business information: On-demand solutions offer the potential to finally bridge the gap between the tools that businesses need to run and the tools that people use to get things done. Imagine an account team communicating and collaborating in the context of their live customer data. That’s the power of bringing together Salesforce and Google.
- Bring social graph information into sales and recruiting: Imagine a sales person seeing how they are connected to a prospect before they send out a critical email. This would result in a far superior interaction and most likely a higher close rate. Imagine an employee using Facebook to identify the best candidates for their company’s open job positions. These employee referrals are likely to be of a significantly higher quality than typical applicants. That’s the power of bringing together Salesforce and Facebook.
So, the choice for companies is clear. Closed clouds offer the opportunity for more of the same done slightly better, while the Salesforce/Google/Facebook/Amazon “cloud of clouds” offers the opportunity for order of magnitude improvements in core business processes!
What do you think?