NetSuite Kicks Off 2015 SuiteWorld Conference As CRM, ERP Wars Heat Up

These days in Silicon Valley, the war of words among big cloud software vendors starts at the airport.

Case in point: As NetSuite partners and customers arrived Sunday and Monday for the business software vendor's 2015 SuiteWorld conference, they were met by ads from rival vendors strategically positioned throughout the airport in San Jose, Calif.

A banner for FinancialForce -- a system built on the Salesforce platform -- waved above a security checkpoint and knocked certain clouds as "NotSuite." A roaming FinancialForce vehicle-mounted ad also circled the convention center hosting the NetSuite conference.

[Related: NetSuite Annual Revenue Crosses The Half-Billion-Dollar Threshold]

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Going down the escalator to baggage claim, visitors passed under a sweeping display from Intacct, another NetSuite competitor in the financial management and ERP arena.

FinancialForce, which offers close integration with Salesforce, taunted in its airport adverts: "ERP FrankenClouds are NotSuite" next to a picture of the famous monster cobbled together from human parts.

It’s a message that reveals much about where these vendors see the current battle lines in the escalating enterprise software war: Who can seamlessly integrate their diverse business systems into one comprehensive offering?

And that's a capability that NetSuite leaders were passionately asserting at SuiteWorld on Tuesday.

During a panel Q&A session, NetSuite founder and Chairman Evan Goldberg defiantly responded to an analyst's question that cited a competitor's dig about "FrankenClouds": "When you buy NetSuite, you buy one system with one database. None of it is stitched together."

The big revelation from CEO Zach Nelson's keynote on Tuesday morning was an integration the veteran cloud ERP and CRM vendor based in San Mateo, Calif. was pursuing beyond its own portfolio.

"It does make for strange bedfellows, what's happening in the cloud," Nelson told the audience before introducing a video address from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

For the first time in NetSuite's history, Microsoft was becoming a partner, Nelson said, with the two companies integrating the ERP with Office 365 and the Azure cloud platform.

"The cloud presents an unprecedented opportunity for organizations to transform," and the industry is just beginning to achieve what's possible through unlimited cloud computing capabilities and rich platforms, Nadella told SuiteWorld attendees.

Mark Rhyman, co-CEO of Big Bang ERP, a NetSuite and Salesforce partner, told CRN that contrary to its Salesforce-aligned rival's ads, a large part of NetSuite's appeal is its high-level integration across its product line.

Rhyman, who traveled to San Jose from his company's headquarters in Montreal to attend his fifth SuiteWorld, told CRN he divides customers into two broad categories: startups and growing businesses. NetSuite offers advantages for both, he said.

For the startups, NetSuite's CRM offers a reasonable price for a starter platform that allows them to begin managing customer relationships.

Then, as the business grows, "you just flip a switch with NetSuite, and you have your whole ERP running closely with your CRM, because it's one system. All your data is preserved and everything is pretty much seamless," he said. "No need for a different product, different add-on."

For that reason, Rhyman said he encourages his customers to go with NetSuite when small, "because once you grow, NetSuite will grow with you."

"It's elastic, it's true cloud. Whether you run one person or 10,000 users, it's going to be the same platform," Rhyman told CRN.