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Mired by Service Problems, Salesforce.com Launches Winter '06 Suite
[January 16, 2006]

Mired by Service Problems, Salesforce.com Launches Winter '06 Suite


By ROBERT LIU
TMCnet Wireless and Technology Columnist
 
Customer relationship management (CRM) vendor Salesforce.com has released its “Winter ’06” product suite during the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, detailing new services like the Mirrorforce disaster recovery system and switching on the much-ballyhooed AppExchange live over the Internet, according to various postings found on the company’s Web sites.


 
The launch comes at a crucial time for the innovative online CRM company, which is confronting growing competition and a new round of criticism stemming from recent service interruptions. CEO Marc Benioff and other company officials including the company’s chief technologist Parker Harris are expected to formally announce the services (as well as a few new customer wins and customary new partnerships) on Tuesday at a news conference in San Francisco.

 
Unlike the criticism that Salesforce.com dodged last year when its competitors (namely Siebel Systems) merely questioned the CRM platform’s scalability in larger enterprise deployments, the latest rhetoric could prove to be more detrimental to its growth prospects. Through its fiscal fourth quarter, Salesforce.com has reportedly been dogged by wide-scale service outages that have left customers at times with sporadic access to their mission-critical data.
 
Ironically, the first such outage occurred a few days after Salesforce.com unveiled Sandbox, another Winter ’06 release that allowed customers to replicate their environments for developing and testing. According to eWeek, that outage lasted nearly 5 hours. Then, in early January, the company experienced an interruption in its Europe, Middle East and Africa region.
 
To help stem customer defections, the company has invested $50 million into three new data center facilities in San Francisco, San Jose and northern Virginia – a commitment that Benioff made last year to address business continuity and disaster recovery. Called Mirrorforce, the infrastructure service is designed to complement AppExchange, which the company has called the “eBay of on-demand applications, the company said.
 
“A new, secure production facility in San Jose will provide world-class performance and reliability to Salesforce customers. Real-time data mirroring to our replica back-up facility in Northern Virginia guarantees data integrity and service delivery. A new production-scale lab facility and tape archive in San Francisco increases the operational efficiency of salesforce.com's development organization while assuring customers of the secure custody of data backup tapes,” Salesforce.com said on the Mirrorforce product marketing Web pages.
 
AppExchange was also switched live on Monday. The service is aimed at enabling Salesforce.com to extend beyond its sales/CRM roots and branch out into other corporate departments like Finance/Accounting and/or Human Resources. The AppExchange platform, used to build out applications, was formerly known as Customforce.
 
In addition to Mirrorforce and AppExchange, Winter ’06 (dubbed the company’s “most important release ever”) also brings a new user interface for the salesforce products aimed at enhancing productivity and navigation; territory management to help larger customers better organize and manage a wide-scale customer base; and customizable forecasting and better analytic tools.
 
A complete webinar detailing Winter ’06 can be found here.
 
But while the Winter ’06 release will undoubtedly bring its usual fanfare tomorrow, the launch comes also amid a rapidly changing competitive landscape. In addition to pressure from other vendors like RightNow Technologies, SAP is still working on its on-demand platform and word is that FrontRange Solutions is rumored to be bringing its Goldmine product suite later this year.
 
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Robert Liu is Executive Editor at TMCnet. Previously, he was Executive Editor at Jupitermedia and has also written for CNN, A&E, Dow Jones and Bloomberg. For more articles, please visit Robert Liu's columnist page.

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