A SaaSy SAP vs. Salesforce debate: Is Benioff overestimating his platform?

A SaaSy SAP vs. Salesforce debate: Is Benioff overestimating his platform?

Summary: Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner dueled at the Churchill Club in a debate about the future of software and the generation gap couldn't be larger.

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Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner dueled at the Churchill Club in a debate about the future of software and the generation gap couldn't be larger.

Benioff brought the bluster, portrayed SAP as a dinosaur and prodded his much larger rival to develop in his platform. Plattner didn't take the bait. The happy couple is pictured at right courtesy of News.com. (Note: ZDNet will be posting audio of this debate in a bit). Dan Farber quotes Benioff:

"I want to figure out how to get SAP to build on our platform. SAP needs to write its new apps on our platform, and I need to help him do that because there is no way he can figure that out...we will be in a war to get more developers on our platform."

Plattner went with his familiar enterprise customization argument. The argument goes like this: Companies like to customize software for their needs. One size doesn't fit all. It's messy, but that's enterprise application reality. Plattner then questioned whether Salesforce could keep its on-demand interfaces consistent as customers write their own code on Benioff's platform as a service effort.

Benioff countered:

"All 41,000 Salesforce customers are on the same version. When we release the new version in June, we don't break the links. In some cases they have to re-implement, but you still have a managed environment."

Plattner noted that Benioff's statement could be seen as downright scary spread across an entire enterprise.

It's a valid point. Let's assume Salesforce's platform becomes dominant and the interface updates every six months. At a certain scale there will be broken links. I'd liken the Salesforce update cycle to a patch cycle. Updates are pushed. Some stuff inevitably breaks. This isn't a problem for Salesforce today, but it's not a big leap to see how it could become an issue.

For its part, SAP sticks with its customization theme--its SaaS effort, BusinessByDesign, has 2,100 service interfaces.

Plattner's money quote was this:

"We have many things in common. Let me give you some advice, but you might not take it because you are younger: don't overestimate your platform."

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Topics: SAP, Enterprise Software

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  • Wait for Leo

    I reckon Benioff will find a far more formidable competitor in Apotheker - can't wait for those sparks to fly
    dahowlett@...