Salesforce.com proves that actions are better than words

I’ve just had the opportunity to catch up on the events of Dreamforce, I must say i am surprised about the lack of attention that their announcements are getting in the blogging community. I dent get it because all of their initiatives are at the forefront of cloud computing. They also have significant ramifications for their competitors. (incidentally who ARE their competitors is a interesting questions.

Lets quickly recap what was announced. Firstly a mashup with Facebook. Secondly integration with Amazon so that SF.DC becomes the orchestration layer to E2C. And the Google Apps integration.

What’s really important to understand her is the evolution of SFDC business model. The facebook ( & LinkedIN) tie up allows them to move from a B2B business to a B2C. They are effectively providing their infrastructure policy & orchestration layers to their customers. This does several things. It makes them very sticky. It drives enormous scale. It gives them access to the mother of all Identity stores. Most compelling is that the viral nature of the social web enables them to make you, the FB user their headhunter, lead finder or product evangelist. It makes them a huge transaction hub , and once you’re there you effectively cant be displaced. The reason for that is you become the centre of gravity (or you get to dictate terms!) check this out for much more detail.

The second powerful theme is the evolution of PaaS. This is a much more mature play in that it effectively leverages the AAA, policy , rules and control layers that SFDC invested in for their own platform, to provision services in other cloud platforms. This is clever for a number of reasons. Firstly the customer is owned by SFDC in so far as they are the primary provider. Secondly it effectively relegates and controls where the other cloud play. Thirdly they *could* become the default start position for cloud services as ubiquitous as ‘Google’ is when you think of search.

This is a massively powerful position that SFDC are aiming for. If they are fast (and this is a race strategy) and don’t scare partners too much with the degree of control then this is a ambitious and winning play unfolding…

Free internet calling on Facebook

A few months back i mused that Facebook was doing a Telco triple play. That is doing calling, content (movies) and gaming down the same channel.

That was a bit of a stretch because actually it was their ISV community doing the triple play.But my point was when you have a great deal of eyeballs and you offer disruptive technology (aka cheaper than the established offerings at a"good enough" quality) you have a good mix.

Today i saw this from Russell Shaw.  

Internet calling solutions provider  iotum has announced expanded availability  for its  FREE Conference Calls application on Facebook.

Internatinal in scope, the expansion fir the five-month-old service is being facilitated by  agreements with Internet communications partners Truphone in the U.K., Abbeynet in Italy and MOI Telecom in France

I find this quite amusing. Telco's are fixated by voip disruption and Skype being public enemy #1, but they seem to missing these web based, clientless competitive plays. I think something like this has legs. Its easy to see the application, you get a group of old flatmates or uni buddies to aggree to shoot the breeze on a fee voip conference call… next step is those same guys connect the dots and say, well hey customer X is on FB why not just use that Iotum thing…. 

 Update:  Looky  looky, content .

Facebook today launched two new Pages for music and film aimed at getting musical artists and film makers on the site.

 

 

 

Others are thinking SaaS and social networks

Ok, i know i'm harping on but the coincidence here is more than astounding.

 From my mornings RSS feeds comes instructions from the MS CRM Dynamics team on integrating CRM 4.0 with Facebook. This is exactly what i pointed out in my mis-spelt post of Friday .

The key is marrying the two together in a way that makes sense. Collaboration is one, CRM could be another (facebooks friends function could be called a rudimentary CRM system after all

In a back channel conversation with Ben Kepes, he wasn't surprised at all by this . Saying that this is just mashups in its next evolution and the way of the future…

Perhaps thats more the point of this series. Maybe convergence isn't between different taxonomy…its in the application mashups and the only constraint is the programmers imagination… that and where the money is. 

 

Who will be the aggregators in a SaaS world

I promised myself I’d follow up on a previous post about who will disrupt old world ISV’s. Ben chipped in with some really salient comments which I’ve copied here.

 

Don’t forget to add to your list of companies that might disrupt as those who are in the value chain of the internet, and have every telco, isp and enterprise in the world as customers, and are all looking for more ways to gain revenues from end customers. ie the ones who actually make the internet work. Alcatel-Lucent, Ericson, Cisco,  Nokia. You might think of them as equipment vendors, but one thing is for sure, they know what is happening out there and have access to the network at a control layer that no software company will ever get”

I replied, essentially saying that there is massive potential for dis-intermediation here for Telco’s. Ben answered again with

“That’s right, and like every value chain, there are margins to be squeezed all the way. Who’s to say that the end game isn’t left with only Cisco and Google, and Alcatel and Microsoft, and Ericson and Apple as partners for example. ….. What I can’t see is actually the value that a Telco (or other aggregator for that matter) add to that equation as SaaS standards and protocols make integration of apps and networks seamless to the user” (my emphasis added)

Now I think I addressed the aggregation point with my previous post. In fairness to Ben I think he was talking about aggregation in 1.0 portal sense. Ie you just act as a gate, without reframing the content.

Ben and I dropped into and IM conversation in which we argued about this some. Ben took the position that unless Telco’s shored up their SaaS value proposition they’d get done like a dogs dinner because systems, technologies like widgets would effectively automate the value chain, thus neutralising the value that an aggregator would have. 

I argued against this. Stating things like automation cannot overcome the archaic and undocumented business rules. For example, if you look at different banks lending rules on a mortgage, you will find that 1) they are all different, 2) its not always formal, 3) the system can be circumvented if you know how. 

I also said that aggregators would be able to provide value in an increasingly complex and fragmented world because your everyday business would be overwhelmed by the choice available (if they aren’t already). And that there was real value in someone providing THE application or a shortlist which worked well for xyz vertical. 

So it was with great interest that I saw these two articles this week. The first by David Berlind is about BT’s new SaaS offerings. Clearly showing that an ISP has a play in SaaS. ISP’s are actually in a pretty good place to get into this type of play for a lot of reasons. Apart from the ability to bill, build platforms etc. One other reason has leapt to me over the last week. All ISP’s offer email. And given aggregation is about getting users back to a site again and again so you can offer them more, is there a better way do this than through an application you use 20 times a day? UPDATE; I just picked up this feed about Yahoo acquiring Zimbra. (Looks like the words out in the ISP community…. SaaS is in )

The second, (a bit more abstract) discusses how Google *MAY* buy some US mobile spectrum. This would be classic Telco dis-intermediation. They won’t have the content, they won’t have the identity or billing, and they won’t have the access. Google would become both the ISP and the SaaS provider. A really interesting play, and until I saw this from David Berlind it was out of context for me,

"Perhaps the other question raised by providing services at the onramp (as opposed to along the highway) is to what extent this move by BT and similar moves like it by other ISPs may force Google to engage more deeply in the onramp (ISP) business."

Other aggregation plays exist too. MS Live is one companies attempt to do this on their own. Not many companies have Microsoft’s resources at their disposal so I don’t see tis being that common unless you get an opensource equivalent movement going. 

Salesforce and perhaps Facebook with their Platform as a Service plays could do this if they could insinuate themselves into the value chain and appease the vendors / offer them enough value to do so.

Another aggregation play would be for someone to do the work for a specific vertical. Health, retail, legal etc. They all have some basic needs (horizontal) which are common like HR etc. But then you could as a smaller player do the aggregation for them. This lends itself heavily to the web 2.0 user generated content play because you could then get a community of recommenders and word of mouth working for you. 

Finally, and looping back to Ben's comments. The people that provide the fabric of our communications infrastructure, could partner with ISV's and content providers directly. These guys have potentially more chance to do this than you're average Telco / ISP. This is because of a couple of reasons. They ARE the onramp that David mentions above. Secondly, because just about every Telco / ISP on the globe has followed the global mantra to cut costs by outsourcing. All of the smarts that a Telco think's it owns, aren't really theirs at all….they belong to the likes of Cisco and Alcatel Lucent.  As Ben said, Telco's really need to shore up their value or they are goneburger…..