Salesforce's Einstein and IBM's Watson: Two Artificial Minds Meet In The Cloud

Salesforce and IBM entered a strategic partnership on Monday focused on joining the capabilities of their respective artificial intelligence platforms to empower sales agents and marketers.

The union of IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein aims to leverage each company's machine learning know-how to deliver deeper insights into customer behavior by the second half of this year, the companies said in a joint statement.

"The power of Watson will serve the millions of Salesforce and Einstein customers and developers to provide an unprecedented understanding of customers," said IBM CEO Ginni Rometty in a prepared statement.

[Related: The Race Is On: IBM, Google, Microsoft And AWS Aim To Deliver Machine Learning As A Cloud Service]

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Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff also said: "No company's core values are as close to Salesforce's as IBM's."

The new partners will introduce Watson APIs into the Salesforce CRM-enhancing AI platform, allowing Einstein users to leverage IBM's cognitive capabilities to derive value from unstructured data outside of their CRM.

The relationship will also lead to IBM's Weather Company assets being included in a component for Lightning, Salesforce's app development platform. Weather data can then be used for predicting customer behavior and driving customer interactions.

And by the end of March, IBM's Application Integration Suite will be able to pull data from outside sources directly into the Salesforce CRM.

IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y., and Salesforce, based in San Francisco, Calif., aren't strangers. In March of last year, Big Blue acquired Bluewolf, one of Salesforce's oldest and most successful implementation partners.

That New York-based systems integrator said it has already formed a practice around the joint offering and plans on developing "industry-specific accelerators" for enterprise customers to drive faster adoption of cognitive applications.

Kai Hsiung, chief revenue officer at Silverline, a Salesforce partner headquartered in New York City that implements artificial intelligence solutions, said the IBM partnership would deliver Einstein customers more data-based insights than currently available to them.

"I believe the partnership will be successful because Watson and Einstein have different capabilities, and will complement the other nicely," he said.

"Watson's structured and unstructured data will increase the value of Einstein across the entire Salesforce platform, allowing our clients an even more holistic view of their customers than ever before," Hsiung told CRN.