Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, long seen as the top evangelist for cloud computing, believes it's time to move beyond the cloud to "the social enterprise" where companies rely on public and private social networks and social applications to run their business.
"I'm sorry, for those of you who didn't make it into the cloud, we've moved on," he said Thursday, speaking at Salesforce's Cloudforce 2011 event in Boston.
Benioff argued that customers and employees are increasingly using social networks like Facebook and Twitter for business tasks rather than corporate Web sites, corporate e-mail systems, and private cloud networks. He cited Comscore statistics showing that the number of social network users surpassed the number of e-mail users in late 2009.
"We want to welcome you to the social revolution," Benioff said. "Because this is where people are increasingly spending their time today. Our employees are social and our customers are social."
As an example Benioff showed a video from Gatorade, which operates its own social media center to monitor social networks for references to Gatorade products. "They realize their brand has become a series of real-time conversations," he said, not memories of past advertisements
"It's a new concept for us as a company. It's a new concept for us as an industry," he said. "This is the defining concept for our industry over the next few years."
Benioff, as he often does in his speeches, poked fun at older, pre-cloud technologies, from aging client/server systems to Microsoft SharePoint and IBM Lotus Notes. Notes, he joked, was conceived before Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was.
The Salesforce CEO warned attendees to beware of "false clouds," projecting a picture of Oracle's Exadata server while he spoke. He also derided private cloud systems as "the screen scrapers of this generation." (Screen scrapers extract from aging legacy systems data that was formatted for mainframe-era terminals.)
Benioff outlined three steps for businesses to become "a social enterprise." First is making full use of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Second is creating private social networks for employees, partners and customers using software like Salesforce Chatter. And third is developing social networking capabilities for enterprise applications using Salesforce development tools such as Heroku.