Google and Salesforce.com: The Plot Thickens

December 8, 2008

For years, I have heard that Google had an interest in Salesforce.com. In my for-fee briefings, I dig into the Salesforce.com technology for multi tenant applications. I am certainly no wizard in the magical world of patent documents, but I thought some of the Salesforce.com methods were somewhat elaborate. In those briefings, I commented that Google seemed to have another approach that exploited some of its more unusual inventions. One example is the elaborate system to determine the context of a user. I refer to these as the Guha patent documents. There are others, of course. My point is that Google seemed to be building functions into its broader data management and container operations. (Please, don’t write and ask me for these briefings. I don’t release that type of information into the wild nor in these largely recycled Web log musings.)

I read “Force.com + Google App Engine = Cloud Relationship Management” by Steve Gillmor here with thought, “Yep, the GOOG is on the move.” Mr. Gillmor’s write up’s lead paragraph hit the nail on the head. He wrote on December 7, 2008, “Salesforce and Google have extended their strategic partnership with Force.com for the Google App Engine.” His article provides useful technical background and some observations about Google’s approach to an “operating system.” You will want to read this article and then save it to your GoogleOnTheMove folder.

My take on this expanded use of the Google App Engine reaches outside the boundaries of Mr. Gillmor’s story. My thoughts are:

  • Google gets Salesforce.com to hook into more Google technology without significant risk or cost. If Salesforce.com’s multi-tenant technology is suitably impressive, Google could increase its involvement with Salesforce.com. If the merged clouds don’t work too well, Google has learned possibly significant information about the Salesforce.com approach.
  • Google receives valuable information about such factors as the efficiency of the Salesforce.com system
  • Google has a reasonably well-controlled lab test for hooking clouds together. The Salesforce.com cloud is more of a wrapper around the data stores at the core of Salesforce.com. Google is more of a next-generation cloud engineered to minimize certain types of bottlenecks associated with traditional database management systems.

Salesforce.com, on the other hand, has more marketing clout. I have heard that the Google relationship makes otherwise dry explanations of multi-tenant technology more interesting. Who knows? Sales presentations are like magic. What you see is often not what allows the magician to entertain and enthrall the audience.

The big loser in the deal is Microsoft. The Google and Salesforce.com relationship comes at a time when Microsoft is making a push for its Dynamics system. Customers will want to hear about the new Google-Salesforce.com deal. That can complicate some procurements and maybe derail some others.

But the best is that Google still retains its freedom with regard to CRM. Google can still buy Salesforce.com or it can pass. Google can sign similar cloud federation deals with other vendors, or at some point, stitch together existing Google services to offer its own cloud-based CRM solution. To sum up, the Google is once again using its mass to distort the enterprise information market. Google’s “dark matter” lets it exert influence in ways that can be difficult to detect.

Stephen Arnold, December 8, 2008

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