CRM Cloud Activity Likely to Cause Near-term Confusion

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Earlier this year I shared Gartner's bullish predictions for software-as-a-service growth in 2011. Gartner expects SaaS revenue to reach $12.1 billion this year, up 20.7 percent from $10 billion in revenue in 2010. Gartner research found CRM is the top SaaS application across all regions of the world. I think this is at least partly due to Salesforce.com's seemingly tireless efforts to promote the concept of CRM in the cloud. Providers of on-premise CRM software, including SAP, Oracle and Microsoft, were slow to respond to Salesforce's entry into the market. They seemed to lumber along, leading mercurial Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff to call them "dinosaurs."


Dinosaurs may be slow, but that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous. The ones with a taste for flesh seem happiest when disemboweling and eating any creatures they catch.


The past few weeks have seen a flurry of announcements from Salesforce.com competitors and Salesforce itself that seem to indicate they are all pretty hungry. Most recently, Microsoft updated its Dynamics CRM software and Oracle purchased RightNow Technologies, expanding its cloud-based customer service capabilities in what seemed like a reaction to Salesforce's earlier purchases of Radian6 and Assistly.


For current and potential CRM users, the near-term result is likely to be confusion over all the new options. With that in mind, Enterprise Apps Today just published a CRM buying guide that mentions several options, including the usual suspects mentioned in this post and a few others. Among other things, the guide mentions the financial incentive Microsoft is offering users of other cloud-based CRM software to switch to Dynamics.


Interestingly, the guide focuses on Oracle CRM On Demand, mentioning only in passing the software giant's Fusion CRM and Public Cloud, which some observers think could emerge as Oracle's primary CRM offering for large enterprises. Enterprise Apps Today devotes another piece to the Public Cloud, which uses the same Fusion middleware Oracle employs for its on-premise software and open standards-based programming languages that should make it easy to integrate with other Java-based software. Salesforce, in contrast, uses a proprietary language for its Force.com platform. In another key differentiator, the Public Cloud also employs virtualization containers instead of a multitenant architecture, which should make it easier for customers to switch back and forth between the public and private clouds.