Salesforce.com doesn't think that large enterprises should have to replace software and infrastructure in which they've already invested huge amounts. Peter Coffee, director of platform research at Salesforce, told me over the phone this morning that the sotware-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor is trying to convince potential customers that they can "amplify and extend" their existing investments, rather than swapping them out for the new cloud paradigm.
As the momentum for SaaS has grown, traditional enterprise software vendors, including SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and Cisco, have shifted their marketing messages away from disparaging the cloud computing model to trying to scaring customers about the cost of a so-called rip-and-replace strategy. They have also begun telling customers that they too will offer software in the cloud; Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Cisco CEO John Chambers have alluded to massive cloud undertakings by their respective companies in the last few weeks that should come to fruition in a few short years, thus "protecting existing investments."
The retort from Salesforce has thus changed from "it's the end of software," to, "you can add new capabilities to your existing programs."
That said, many customers simply aren't ready to commit fully to the cloud, for a variety of reasons that include scalability, reliability and security -- issues touched upon by my colleague Erik Sherman. Coffee won't cop to the validity of those issues, but grants that they're actual customer concerns. By the same token, though, Coffee says even customers with those concerns admit that those problems will probably be resolved within the next three years. And that's all the opening Coffee says he needs to convince customers to start pilot projects now, "so you're ready three years from now. If you think the cloud can offer a fully-baked enterprise offering that can do anything you could plausibly want to do in three years, you should be aggressively developing pilot programs now," he told me.