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Salesforce Closes Another Stellar Quarter, Sets Sights On Leapfrogging SAP Next Year

In the third-quarter earnings call, CEO Marc Benioff shared details of Salesforce's relationships with all three hyper-scale cloud providers -- AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google.

Salesforce.com again delivered earnings that beat expectations Wednesday, stacking up successful quarters and racing toward founder and CEO Marc Benioff's goal of $10 billion in annual revenue.

The third-quarter financials exceeded Wall Street's projections by 2 cents a share -- or $10 million total -- with 21 cents earnings per share on $1.71 billion in revenue. Share prices climbed above $81 in after-hours trading, up more than 5 percent.

The company is on pace to deliver $6.6 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2016, Benioff said on the earnings call, making sure to point out that Salesforce is set to reach that mark "faster than any other enterprise software company in history."

[Related: Salesforce Tops Quarterly Earnings Forecasts; Benioff Jabs SAP And Oracle]

Next year, Salesforce will become the fourth-largest software company in the world, according to Benioff. And Salesforce has already set its sights on leapfrogging SAP into third place.

On the call, Benioff shared revealing insights into Salesforce's relationships with the three hyper-scale cloud providers, all of which the CRM leader uses to some degree to host its cloud applications and platforms.

Salesforce is "a huge customer of Amazon Web Services," Benioff said, and vice versa.

"We use AWS to build our product," he said, adding that Heroku, Salesforce's application development platform, is hosted on AWS.

At the same time, Salesforce is also working with Microsoft to expand its use of the Azure cloud.

And not to leave out the third hyper-scale public cloud -- and another large Salesforce customer -- Benioff told investors, "we use Google's platform very extensively at Salesforce as well."

"Those are our three core strategic partners in Infrastructure-as-a-Service," Benioff said of the highly competitive IaaS providers.


"That's the modern IT infrastructure" that delivers speed, a much lower total cost of ownership and rapid innovation, Salesforce's CEO told investors.

Expounding on overall cloud dynamics, Benioff said Salesforce dominates in sales for several multibillion-dollar clouds at the application layer.

Drop down to the "declarative and programmatic application deployment" layer -- otherwise known as Platform-as-a-Service -- and Salesforce is also a major player with its App Cloud, Salesforce1, Lightning and Heroku.

PaaS is "very strategic" to Salesforce because the vendor's core applications are built on its own platforms. And offering that layer to customers gives them "plasticity to take our applications apart and put them back together," Benioff said.

The three IaaS partnerships complete the stack.

"There's no doubt we are at a tipping point in cloud platforms," Benioff said. "And companies that have been cloud deniers like SAP and Oracle are paying a horrible price, in single-digit or negative growth, and companies are not buying their products because they're not modern."

Keith Block, the company's president, told investors he would characterize Q3 as "one of the most memorable and exciting quarters we've had here at Salesforce."

Salesforce's revenue grew by almost 24 percent from the same quarter of the previous year. At the same time, the company improved operating margins for the sixth straight quarter, said Mark Hawkins, the company's chief financial officer.

With those positive results, Salesforce was raising guidance for its full fiscal year 2016 revenue by $25 million, to between $6.64 billion and $6.65 billion, Hawkins said.

The company expects to hit the $8 billion mark in fiscal year 2017, Benioff said.

Benioff said those projections now put his company in sight of a goal he's been talking about for several years -- a $10 billion year.

The strong growth, Benioff said, results from Salesforce's being at the center of a process that every company is going through -- a digital transformation.

PUBLISHED NOV. 18, 2015

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