Salesforce on Tuesday unveiled Einstein 1 Data Cloud, the latest version of its data engine that is now integrated with the new Einstein 1 platform to unify customers' data so they can build AI applications, automate data flows and analyze data at scale.
Einstein 1 is a new AI platform built with Salesforce's metadata framework at its core and developed to enable customers to create and train AI-powered applications.
Einstein 1 Data Cloud -- formerly known as Genie -- is the underlying metadata management tool that connects data from myriad sources and makes it usable for AI and analysis through its integrations with Einstein 1, Tableau and Salesforce's CRM applications.
Salesforce introduced both Einstein 1 and Einstein 1 Data Cloud during Dreamforce, the CRM giant's user conference in San Francisco.
Their development, meanwhile, is evidence that Salesforce is placing a growing emphasis on AI, data management and analytics while remaining rooted in CRM, according to Doug Henschen, an analyst at Constellation Research.
Salesforce has long offered AI and analytics tools. But many recent moves, including developing Genie and acquiring Tableau in 2019, have focused on data and AI as fuel for managing customer relationships.
"Salesforce is by no means diminishing its CRM focus," Henschen said. "But it has been steadily upping its data and analytics game."
Salesforce introduced CRM Analytics in 2014, acquired Tableau in 2019 and launched Genie in 2022, all of which readied the CRM giant to develop an AI platform such as Einstein 1, he continued.
"Competitive forces really drove Salesforce to invest more deeply in data analytics, and it wouldn't be in a potion to deliver on AI without a data platform and cohesive data strategy," Henschen said.
Fuel for AI and analysis
Einstein 1 Data Cloud is built on a data lakehouse architecture, according to Patrick Stokes, Salesforce's EVP of product.
Lakehouses combine the structured data storage capabilities of data warehouses with the unstructured data storage capabilities of data lakes. In doing so, they enable users to combine structured data, such as financial records and transactions, with unstructured data, such as text and audio, to gain a more comprehensive view.
According to "2023 Connectivity Benchmark Report" by Salesforce's Mulesoft, its software integration division, organizations use an average of more than 1,000 different applications, less than one-third of which are integrated.
Meanwhile, data volume and data complexity are increasing, making it progressively more difficult for organizations to keep track of and derive value from data.
Einstein 1 Data Cloud is a metadata management layer designed to address the difficulties of integrating and harnessing data by unifying disparate types of data to provide users with a unified view of their customers.
Now integrated with Einstein 1, the Data Cloud not only helps users better understand their own customers but also enables users to manage greater data volume than in the past by supporting thousands of metadata-enabled objects, each with trillions of rows of data.
All that data, in turn, can be used to inform decisions with Salesforce's various analytics tools, including Tableau and CRM Analytics. In addition, the data can be used to develop Flows -- Salesforce's automation workloads -- and predictive models.
Perhaps most critically, by integrating a metadata management layer into Einstein 1, users can build trustworthy AI models, according to Henschen.
"The whole idea of having a consistent metadata management layer is to eliminate disparate data silos and ensure consistent and coherent data and data models," he said. "Consistent and reliable data is also essential for accurate and trustworthy AI."
As a result, Salesforce isn't the only data platform vendor improving metadata management capabilities, Henschen continued.
Among others, Databricks now has Unity Catalog, Google Cloud added Dataplex and AWS is adding DataZone.
"Having a consistent metadata management layer behind the scenes should be helpful to Salesforce customers," Henschen said.
Stokes, meanwhile, noted that Einstein 1 Data Cloud represents a substantial improvement over Genie and the data clouds that preceded Genie. Its lakehouse structure makes it capable of handling far more data than the transactional databases Salesforce previously provided users.
"We now have a hyper-scaled data engine directly inside of Salesforce to connect all of your data," Stokes said during a virtual press conference. "Any data that sits in Salesforce is now available as metadata and can be used across any [Salesforce] application. … This is unlike anything you have traditionally been able to put inside Salesforce or even use to work with Salesforce."
As part of its launch of Einstein 1 Data Cloud, Salesforce is giving away a free Data Cloud Starter plus two Tableau Creator licenses to all Sales Cloud and Service Cloud customers with Enterprise or Unlimited editions.
With Data Cloud Starter and the Tableau Creator licenses, users will be able to unify 10,000 customer profiles before they must start paying.
"This is about the need to give our customers more capabilities to handle the emergence of big-scale data," Stokes said. "It's to help them go from big data to smart data and connect it to the rest of the platform."
As Salesforce continues to build up its AI, data management and analytics capabilities, its main competitors are data cloud vendors with CRM platforms, such as Microsoft and Oracle, rather than CRM specialists, such as HubSpot and Zendesk.
In addition, like tech giants AWS, Google and Microsoft, specialized vendors compete with certain Salesforce tools.
As a result, as data and AI become more prevalent parts of CRM, Salesforce is at risk of losing some of its market share to Microsoft and Oracle, according to Henschen.
However, Salesforce's growing focus on AI, data management and analytics -- now including Einstein 1 and Einstein 1 Data Cloud -- are important steps toward maintaining its position.
"Salesforce is far and away the market leader in CRM," Henschen said. "But as AI and data change CRM and enterprise applications, there was a threat that competitors such as Microsoft and Oracle could gain ground. Salesforce has been working very hard on its data, analytics and AI capabilities in recent years to blunt that threat."
Eric Avidon is a senior news writer for TechTarget Editorial and a journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He covers analytics and data management.