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Salesforce's Benioff: Cloud is about community, not one leader

Salesforce.com's CEO Marc Benioff reiterated his argument that cloud computing is about building an ecosystem of many partners -- not just one company alone at the top.
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Written by Rachel King on

Salesforce.com's CEO and chairman Marc Benioff once again professed that customers are revolting against traditional enterprise software as corporations become more social.

The keyword there would be social -- the overriding theme of Dreamforce 2011 -- as Benioff explained in more detail while speaking at a Q&A session at his company's annual conference in San Francisco on Thursday.

Benioff argued that the IT industry as a whole is a complete state of transformation. Customers are often finding themselves at two polar ends of the spectrum, reiterating his Arab Spring parallel on the one end where the Internet isn't being used at all to the inverse side of overexposure. Benioff noted that customers are going to find the middle ground, but they are also the best source for answers and are more important than ever for companies seeking to reinvent themselves.

For example, Benioff posited that if one goes out and interviews 10 different customers about a single issue, say with cloud adoption, the interviewer would receive 10 different answers.

Thus, the rules for cloud computing, integrating social and anything else with it are not clear right now as Benioff exclaimed we are "in a whole new world" with this technology.

Benioff also touched on the growth of his own company (they're certainly hiring right now) as well as a slew of acquisitions that Salesforce has made in the last year, many of which Benioff described as "really cool."

Nevertheless, as Salesforce grows, Benioff explained, it's not about being a dominant and sole leader in this space. Rather, Salesforce is sticking to the plan at the heart of the company: it's about building a community.

He argued that "a lot of people have to play together and develop an ecosystem," as "that's the nature of the Internet."

Benioff had some kind words about VMware, which he described as a "tremendous partner." The Salesforce CEO acknowledged that virtual machines are "a powerful piece of software that let us get more value out of existing servers, which have a high level of inefficiency."

But virtualization doesn't fit in with the Salesforce philosophy as Benioff stated that Salesforce's approach to cloud computing is "public services."

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