Dreamforce '13: Salesforce.com's Benioff on HP, Superpod and Larry Ellison

Salesforce's chief clarifies what the "Superpod" actually is.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO---If someone had a nickel for every time the word "customer" was uttered at Dreamforce this week, then he or she might reach $5 billion in revenue before Salesforce.com plans to by 2015.

Much like Amazon Web Services in Las Vegas last week, all things customer has been the central selling point at the CRM giant's annual expo at Moscone Center this week, trumping technology news and education about new platform features.

"Well, Larry is in Kyoto, looking at the maple leaves," Benioff quipped to chuckles from the press and analysts in the audience. 

Here's a snapshot:

On the new Salesforce Superpod collaboration with Hewlett-Packard: "It's not single-tenant," Benioff explained. "It is an innovation on our model. What we have inside our datacenters are multi-system, multi-tenant systems." 

All of Salesforce customers are spread out across 15 pods, each of which containts multi-tenant software. 

Benioff stressed that the multi-instance pod scheme has worked well for Salesforce customers, but he admitted that HP approached Salesforce, asking for its own pod.

Thus, Benioff clarified that the Superpod runs the same multi-tenant software. The difference with the Superpod, however, is that it is dedicated and customers can choose to "take an extra step" with Salesforce.

"There are customers that want to go to another level with us, which we were not at before today," Benioff posited.

On the foundation of Salesforce1: Declaring that the new app development platform is the best technology that the cloud company has ever done, Benioff admitted that wasn't always the case.

That's because Benioff revealed that Salesforce1 emerged as the evolution of Salesforce Touch, which he recalled was a big priority for the company two years ago.

Nevertheless, Benioff described Touch as a "failed component" of the Salesforce ecosystem.

On revenue growth plans: Anyone following Salesforce's balance sheet knows that the San Francisco-headquartered operation plans to achieve more than $5 billion in annual revenue by 2015.

Salesforce posted more than $1 billion in quarterly revenue during the third quarter at a growth rate of 36 percent year-over-year, which Benioff has boasted repeatedly as a record for an enterprise software company.

Yet Benioff cautiously outlined that there are two factors that hold revenue growth back: employee growth within certain departments when targeting new markets, and acquiring entire companies. Salesforce has made 25 acquisitions to date.

Benioff revealed that he thinks Salesforce has made enough acquisitions -- at least for the time being, commenting in the same vein as a safe harbor statement that he reserves the right to change his mind later.

On Salesforce's other infrastructure deal with Oracle: When asked about Larry Ellison's absence at Oracle -- despite an invitation back in June during a joint conference call to appear at Dreamforce -- Benioff paused with nervous laughter.

"Well, Larry is in Kyoto, looking at the maple leaves," Benioff quipped to chuckles from the press and analysts in the audience. 

"It's true actually," he continued, with a smile. 

"We miss him and send him our best regards," Benioff said. "I won't make any other comments there because I have a whole detente from him, which is going really well, so let's just keep it that way."

One message to describe the cloud industry overall: "There's a rapid accelleration of change going on in our industry," observed Benioff. "Everyone -- including us -- has to work extremely hard to keep up with that change."

He continued, "It's all about speed. Things are more open, transparent. We're creating a collaborative world."

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