Salesforce.com's Benioff pushes 'social enterprises'

Benioff pointed to the growing use of Facebook (see video below)

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Another Salesforce.com customer at the event discussed how the social enterprise concept can be applied not only to collaboration or marketing but also to day-to-day operations and security.

Networking vendor Enterasys is launching a software product called Isaac that can allow networked devices to securely communicate via social media, said Vala Afshar, chief customer officer, in an interview.

The system, which transforms machine language into natural language, is compatible with Salesforce.com's Chatter and other social services, allowing administrators to interact with devices they "follow" via a social network.

For example, a security system may indicate some kind of breach in a given physical area of a facility, he said. A surveillance camera in the area could then "tweet" out a snapshot of the space, giving remote employees the ability to check on things, he said.

Another use case might be CIOs from universities who would be able to shut off Internet access on student computers during exam periods, he said.

Two-factor authentication makes the process secure, according to Afshar.

Other customers, such as BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), a nonprofit that runs after-school programs in Boston, New York and other U.S. cities, are getting something useful out of Salesforce.com and Force.com's core capabilities.

BELL moved to Salesforce.com a few years ago from a Lotus Domino-based system, and it is now crucial to the organization's operations, said Andy Manson, senior manager of systems, in an interview. "It's where a lot of our important data is."

A cloud-based system also works well for BELL's highly distributed workforce, since they can easily connect with it anywhere, he said.

While the social technologies Benioff focused on were of interest to Manson, the organization is not currently using them, but that could change down the road, he said.

Overall, a key part of Salesforce.com's long-term success will be the continued evolution of its core development platform, said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research.

"Force.com is probably the most important part of Salesforce.com," Wang said. "A PaaS (platform-as-a-service) offering is going to be important for any customers who are used to custom development. The thing that's important to watch is what Salesforce does with Force.com over the next three to five years. The acquisitions are helping them get there."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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