Five questions for Salesforce.com at Dreamforce

The company's burgeoning array of products and 'social enterprise' strategy will be on display

By , IDG News Service |  Software

Salesforce.com has for years sought to recast itself as a full-blown application development platform provider, exposing its underlying Force.com stack to partners and customers for building new products and extensions. More recently, and perhaps in response to or recognition of the growing age of Force.com's technology, it purchased Ruby application platform vendor Heroku, which has also added support for Java.

Salesforce.com has never made it entirely clear for developers of when each platform makes more sense to use, said Forrester Research analyst China Martens.

In addition, Salesforce.com has seemed to keep Heroku at arms-length from a marketing perspective. The company still has its own website, which features a much different look and feel from Salesforce.com's own. In fact, it's difficult to immediately discern that Salesforce.com now owns the vendor, based on Heroku's homepage.

Nor has Salesforce.com made overt moves to bring together the two platforms on a technical level.

Some sense of where it's all going could come at Dreamforce, however, during a keynote by Salesforce.com co-founder and executive vice president Parker Harris.

Are there too many irons in the fire?

Harris' talk is just one of a slew of product keynotes slated for Dreamforce. Others will cover the company's Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Work.com HR software, Chatter and the Data.com business data service.

Plenty of live customers from big-name companies as well as Salesforce.com executives and marketing staffers will deliver the goods, which suggests that all of the company's product lines have gained some level of maturity.

But the fact that Salesforce.com had to break out the topics into all those sessions also speaks to the growing complexity of its offerings.

Therefore, the onus will be on Benioff, a formidable orator, to tie it all together for customers during his own keynote.

Pressure on partners?

At last week's TechCrunch Disrupt conference Benioff revealed that Salesforce.com would be entering yet two more lines of business, identity management and online document storage and backup, with ventures called Salesforce Identity and Chatterbox.

During Dreamforce, Salesforce.com is expected to discuss in more detail these moves, which are being seen by some as direct attacks against partners such as startups Okta and Box, the latter of which Salesforce.com has actually invested in.

But Benioff said he didn't view the industry as a "zero-sum game" and isn't interested in killing smaller companies.

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