Salesforce plays multi-cloud game with Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud as AWS contract likely up for renewal

There's a method to the madness when it comes to Salesforce working with Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform as its initial deal with AWS runs out.

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Salesforce is signaling that it's willing to play the multi-cloud game for its own infrastructure and craft broader partnerships that are likely to give it some pricing breaks.

As Dreamforce kicks off this week in San Francisco, we're likely to hear about new services, capabilities and customer innovation and pep talks. I would find a session on how Salesforce manages its own infrastructure far more interesting.

Let's connect some multi-cloud dots with a dash of informed speculation.

  1. Last week, Salesforce said its Marketing Cloud will make use of Microsoft Azure. That move is a bit of a shocker considering Salesforce and Microsoft compete heavily on the CRM front. Then again, it's not like Salesforce is putting its sales and service clouds on Azure. For good measure, Microsoft and Salesforce said they will integrate and share Salesforce CRM records within Microsoft Teams similar to how Slack and Salesforce hook up.
  2. In July, Salesforce cut a deal with Alibaba Cloud to extend services into China.
  3. In November 2017 at Dreamforce, Salesforce announced a partnership with Google Cloud. Under that partnership, Salesforce said it would use G Suite and jointly market it to customers. Salesforce named Google Cloud a preferred cloud provider and use it for international expansion. Google's analytics services also were tied to Salesforce's marketing and sales platforms. Also last week, Salesforce's Mulesoft announced integration with Google Cloud Platform's BigQuery, which is used by large enterprises for analytics.
  4. In 2016, Salesforce made Amazon Web Services its preferred infrastructure vendor and disclosed that it had an agreement with "a third-party provider for certain infrastructure services for a period of four years." Under that agreement, Salesforce was expected to pay this third-party provider (read AWS) $126 million in fiscal 2020. Salesforce and AWS expanded the partnership a bit in 2018. Salesforce will report its fiscal 2020 third-quarter results Dec. 3 and have an investor day next week.

Is it a coincidence that Salesforce has deals with Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure just as its initial agreement with AWS comes to a close? Hell no. What Salesforce is doing has to be in the multi-cloud playbook somewhere.

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Salesforce said in its 2019 annual report:

The company has entered into various contractual commitments with infrastructure service providers for a total commitment of $2.0 billion. The company paid $156 million in connection with these agreements during fiscal 2019. As of January 31, 2019 the total remaining commitment is approximately $1.8 billion and $264 million is due in the next fiscal year.

Salesforce added that it runs its own data centers too, but IaaS providers are a help with flexibility and meeting in-country data privacy requirements. Salesforce is simply executing what every enterprise needs to leverage: A multi-cloud environment if only to prevent being hosed by incumbent vendors. Salesforce can have partnerships with Google Cloud and Microsoft that are win-win enough to keep costs down somewhat. Salesforce likely moves G Suite for Google and the BigQuery integration helps joint customers with analytics. Microsoft wants to win SaaS providers over with Azure and obviously needs Teams to be a success to hold off Slack.

AWS is a bit of a different animal. AWS is a Salesforce customer, but may not need the channel help as much. AWS also doesn't need Salesforce to use an ancillary product in exchange for compute, storage and other services.

Simply put, Salesforce could be held over a barrel by AWS in future negotiations. Salesforce has more leverage with Microsoft and Google because it can offer more product integration points.

If all of this multi-cloud set-up sounds a bit familiar it's because Salesforce and Oracle did a similar dance before. Salesforce started introducing other databases ahead of an Oracle negotiation. And presto, we get an Oracle-Salesforce bromance and my favorite graphic in my tenure at ZDNet as Oracle locked in Salesforce on some level.

Here's to hoping AWS and Salesforce craft a win-win arrangement in any new negotiation if only to have fun with the Marc Benioff and Jeff Bezos graphic.

ZDNET'S MONDAY MORNING OPENER

The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.