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The PaaS Wars Heat Up at Dreamforce

This year's Dreamforce event was ginormous. Salesforce.com took over all three wings of the Moscone Center in San Francisco for a week and even closed down a block of Howard Street to accommodate the wanderings of the 45,000 registered attendees. The entire exhibit area of one wing was set up for CEO Mark Benioff's keynote opener, and they still had overflow traffic going into another room to watch the keynote on monitors.

Benioff was in full Elmer Gantry mode, prowling the stage and the audience, preaching his company's newish message about the social revolution and his notions about evolving the Salesforce development platform into a "social enterprise platform." As I reported earlier, he declared, "We were born cloud, and now we've been reborn social!"

Benioff and company announced a bunch of enhancements for the Salesforce Chatter enterprise social network, a new Web-based resource for delivering an HTML5-based version of its applications, the official launch of Database.com with a new Data Residency Option (DRO), new features for its Radian6 social monitoring tool, and support in its Heroku cloud app platform for Java.

If the size of this event is any indication, a lot of people seem to be interested in Benioff's message -- and  lot of those people are developers. IDC analyst Al Hilwa sees the news and announcements fired from this conference as another volley in the "PaaS wars," and an ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of application developers.

"There is a major transformation taking place in application platforms and everybody is fighting to paint a vision of what things will look like when all settles down," Hilwa told me via e-mail. "We are drifting into a more diverse world where there are many languages and platforms available to developers in a viable way."

Hilwa pointed to the big, warm hug Salesforce gave to HTML5 at the show.

"HTML5 appears to be how most enterprises will address the diversity of mobile devices that might be coming into the enterprise," he said. "Salesforce and VMware are both aware of that with [Salesforce] announcing that they will touch-enable their platform, and VMware announcing specific infrastructure solutions that enable HTML5 on such devices. HTML5 has a strong future as a unifying technology that will provide the enterprise balance to consumer application platforms [that] use native tools. I see both native and web co-existing and providing different advantages that appeal to consumers and enterprises in different ways."

PaaS war, indeed. Benioff took direct aim at rival Oracle from the stage when he told his audience to "beware of the false cloud" as he stood before an image of the Oracle Exadata server. Meanwhile, Three groups of people tethered to large, cloud-shaped balloons featuring Oracle's logo and "#1 CRM" loitered on the streets outside the conference from early in the morning. I kept expecting to see kite-flying Microsofties, hot air balloons dropping IBM leaflets, or "SAP" rendered in the firmament by skywriters.

I reported this earlier, but it's worth repeating: Gartner says the market for Social CRM will surpass $1 billion in revenue by the end of 2012.

Posted by John K. Waters on September 2, 2011