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Salesforce-AWS partnership expected to benefit customers

By switching to Amazon Web Services, existing Salesforce customers could gain insight from AWS apps that will easily integrate with Salesforce.

There appears to be the start of a new, powerful friendship in the tech world.

Earlier this year, Salesforce and Amazon Web Services struck a $400 million-dollar partnership with Salesforce using AWS as its preferred public cloud provider, and it will build on AWS infrastructure for international expansion. Salesforce currently has several services, including Heroku, Salesforce IQ and IoT Cloud running on AWS.

This international expansion has already started, with Salesforce's core products running on AWS infrastructure in Canada. Salesforce has its own infrastructure based in the U.S. that currently hosts its core software, but chose to partner with AWS rather than build out its own international infrastructure expansion.

The Salesforce-AWS partnership should be a well-received coming together for Salesforce customers, especially those already using AWS cloud infrastructure.

"This gives Salesforce the ability to leverage the computing power and immense capabilities of AWS cloud to integrate that functionality to the core Salesforce products," said Joe Ferraro, CTO of Chicago-based Mavens Consulting Services Inc., which designs and builds Salesforce-based applications for pharma and life science companies. "So customers won't have to be building custom integrations all the time between Salesforce and Amazon."

Several factors went into the decision to partner with AWS, rather than, say, Microsoft Azure -- including Amazon's stance in the cloud service market, as well as the company's lack of competition with Salesforce, when compared with Microsoft or Oracle.

"The other aspect is the economics of it," said Michael Fauscette, chief research officer at Chicago-based G2 Crowd Inc., a peer-to-peer business software review company. "Amazon is already scaled in a lot of places where Salesforce doesn't have data center presence yet."

A souring relationship between Microsoft and Salesforce also may have attributed to the Salesforce-AWS partnership, at least according to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

Earlier this month, Benioff was quoted in The Australian as saying Salesforce's relationship with Microsoft was strained. Benioff claimed Microsoft was using Salesforce for "competitive intelligence."

"So we had to move on to Amazon, where we have a blossoming relationship," Benioff told the news publication.

Regardless of the underlying reason, the Salesforce-AWS partnership should benefit customers of both platforms, as well as both companies, which have more reason to cross-sell products.

"Pairing two massive forces in software, one is going to bring the competency of CRM and running a great business platform, and you pair that with the largest software-as-a-service company in the world in Amazon," Ferraro said. "It introduces an interesting competition of Amazon and Salesforce co-selling against a company like Microsoft or Oracle."

Ferraro believes the partnership will mostly benefit Salesforce and its customers, by providing Salesforce with big data insight that it previously lacked when compared with Amazon and the applications built on its cloud infrastructure.

"Salesforce is not a big data platform," Ferraro said. "They do have Wave, which is supposed to be their big analytics platform, but it doesn't reach the scale that Amazon products reach. This will give customers unique opportunities to reach insight and analytics they glean from Amazon and be able to feed it to Salesforce. It's letting the various platforms do what they're best at."

Newer Salesforce products are already hosted on AWS, including the IoT Cloud and recent purchases Heroku and RelateIQ, which is now SalesforceIQ Inbox. Salesforce's core services will remain on its existing infrastructure in the U.S., as it has substantial investment in its own database that was built off Oracle infrastructure back at the beginning of Salesforce.

"Salesforce had for a long time built out everything," Fauscette said. "But they made some recent acquisitions that already ran on Amazon. That taught them there were other ways to approach this."

Fauscette recommended that if you're an existing Salesforce customer, it would make sense to take a look at AWS cloud services, especially with the growing synergy the two companies will have moving forward.

"The beautiful thing about this, from a Salesforce customer perspective, is it doesn't make much difference as far as what you have to do," he said. "And if [Salesforce] does other new standalone clouds, I'd expect them to be on AWS as well."

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