Salesforce touts Asia's cloud computing era

Hosted CRM provider opens data center in Singapore, its first outside United States; says businesses of all sizes can reap benefits of cloud model.
Written by Melvin G. Calimag, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Salesforce.com firmed its presence in Asia when it formally inaugurated here Wednesday, its first data center outside its home base in the United States.

The cloud CRM provider unveiled the facility at a company event here, with top Singapore trade officials also in attendance. The data center, located at the eastern side of the island-state, was first announced by the company a year-and-a-half ago.

No investment figures were disclosed.

At the same time, Salesforce also unveiled a new offering that lets Singapore enterprises build and run their "first" application for free on Force.com, the company's cloud computing platform.

Singapore is the only country, outside the United States, where the company is availing the offer, though executives said it intends to make the same offer to the rest of the world in the "next two to four weeks".

The Force.com Free Edition, as Salesforce calls it, is intended to lure enterprises to have a taste of running an application over the cloud before they are charged for succeeding applications. Once hooked up, customers can develop their own applications or buy them from AppExchange, a marketplace for applications that run on Force.com.

The company said "customers and partners" built about 120,000 business applications on Force.com, while there are some 800 applications available on AppExchange.

Salesforce officials said the Asia-Pacific region stands to benefit from cloud computing as both small and midsize businesses (SMBs), as well as big corporations can take advantage of the cheaper cost of operating a business over the Internet.

The company said it has already signed up over 5,000 customers in the region in its first fiscal quarter of 2010, including big names such as Tata, Crocs, Pacnet and Ricoh.

As proof that a "paradigm shift" in the computing landscape has already transpired, Salesforce executives said it already exceeded US$1 billion in annual revenue early this year.

Andrew Khaw, senior director at the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore, said the cloud computing platform has created a new avenue for the country to further position itself as a regional ICT hub.

Khaw said the IDA has developed a plan to exploit cloud computing as a new area of opportunity. The strategy, he said, includes putting up the infrastructure for cloud computing, working with the industry to put up more innovation centers, and nurturing the capability of the local workforce through the introduction of cloud computing courseware in educational institutions.

While Salesforce.com's lone international data center is housed in Singapore, it has offices and facilities in other parts of Asia, including a call center in India. Also based in Singapore is the company's new Network Operations Centre (NOC), that company executives said, will allow round-the-clock monitoring of the company's data centers in North America and Singapore.

Melvin G. Calimag is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines. He was in Singapore covering Salesforce.com NOC launch.

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