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Salesforce's Benioff: VMware Not In Cloud Computing Biz

At Dreamforce 2011, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff drew a line in the sand and said VMware and its virtualization offerings are not cloud computing.

Dreamforce 2011

"I watched the VMware keynote this week," Benioff added, referring to VMware CEO Paul Maritz's keynote address at VMworld in Las Vegas. "They talked about how they have like 50 percent now of the total market of servers that they are on, if I got the number right, and that they have loaded their software onto 50 percent of all servers and that they're that much more efficient and then they said 'and now they're all clouds.' That's now where you got my attention, because putting virtual machines on servers is great and I understand they call it private clouds, but our vision of cloud computing is not that."

VMware did not respond to CRN's request to comment.

In the VMworld keynote, Maritz said: "We're not immune from cloud fever -- we also tend to use this term a lot." Maritz laid out VMware's cloud stack and discussed its charge into to the cloud computing market. Maritz also detailed VMware's Cloud Foundry Platform-as-a-Service play, which will compete directly against Salesforce's cloud development platforms like Heroku and Force.com

But Benioff said Martiz's and VMware's private cloud vision isn't cloud computing as he understands it.

"Our vision of cloud computing is multi-tenancy, shared systems and public networks run as a 24x7 public trusted service …," Benioff continued. "If you're talking about more hardware or if you're talking about more software, it's not about the cloud. And the cloud is really this next generation of computing and that's new software and that's new services."

According to Benioff, Salesforce is targeting companies looking to keep close contact with their customers and to create that relationship, Salesforce's social enterprise combines social, mobile and open cloud elements to transform a business.

"We're not selling components. We're not selling virtual machines," Benioff said. "We're not selling hardware. We're selling social enterprise and it's the cloud that makes it possible."

While Benioff said that Salesforce still has a strong relationship with VMware -- which Benioff considers a "tremendous" Salesforce partner -- the pair's VMforce partnership for Java development in the cloud may be dissolving slightly as Salesforce adds Java support to Heroku, a Ruby-based development platform Salesforce acquired last year. Though Benioff said VMware's SpringSource technology is integrated into Heroku for Java.

"The deviation between Salesforce and VMware is: VMware, VM, virtual machine; they're about virtual machines and about virtualization," Benioff said. "We have a different approach to cloud computing, which is public services."

Next: Benioff: VMware Sells Software, Not Cloud

Benioff said virtualization and single tenancy still have a role in today's technology landscape, but those aren't areas Salesforce would like to play.

"It's fundamentally a different philosophy," he said. "The philosophy is, and it's a reasonable philosophy, that somehow we're going to come out of the client-server era and we need these technologies to bring us into the cloud area, so we need a transitional technology, and that's why we need virtual machines. And I obviously don't believe that. I don't believe in more software. It's not that I don't believe in efficiency for our disk and servers -- that's how I view virtual machines. I view virtual machines as an incredible piece of software … that really let us get more value out of existing servers."

Benioff said virtual machines increase server utilization and create more efficiency, but at the end of the day virtualization and cloud are not equals. Additionally, Benioff said Salesforce's goal is to reduce customer reliance on software, which is different from VMware's approach. He said other companies can focus on software, while Salesforce maintains its focus on the cloud.

"Virtual machines are not what this conference is about. This conference is about public cloud computing and these next generation companies that you see I believe are not software companies," Benioff said. "Some of these companies are software companies. They ship software. VMware ships software. It has version numbers after it. That's how you know when you're dealing with a software company, you hear about version 'this.' When you hear about version 'this' you know you're not in the cloud. If you're at another conference and they say we have our cloud version 3.6 you probably know it's not the cloud. And that's why we walked away from that whole concept of versioning. You didn't hear me talking about 'well it's version da-da-da.' It's not a new version, it's a new vision."

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