The Real Star of Dreamforce 2011?

No, it wasn’t a product announcement around Chatter, although Chatter Customer Groups, Chatter Approvals (e.g. for expense or vacation approvals), and instant messaging capabilities are all welcome additions to Salesforce’s social enterprise platform.

No, it wasn’t a product announcement from any of the 300 expo vendors and partners. It wasn’t even a stand-out individual from one of the 45,000 customers, partners or expert speakers. It wasn’t the cameo by MC Hammer or Neil Young, or the rock and roll concert by Metallica. In fact, the real star of Dreamforce had no booth of its own, didn’t pay or earn any money from the show? but was nonetheless omnipresent.

The real star of Dreamforce 2011 was the iPad. During the keynote, the requisite video montage of CEOs talking about their success with Salesforce included various shots of them caressing their iPads. And Marc Benioff’s historical context slide of “computing through the ages” firmly asserted that we’ve now entered the post-PC (ahem, iPad) era.

Then we all watched as the gigantic video screen cut from the main stage to an establishing shot of Parker Harris on the expo floor. He’s at the social enterprise campus, standing in front of a 10-foot wide iPad, and explaining Salesforce’s mobile strategy based on HTML5. By the way, their desktop interface will also be transitioned to HTML5, so it’s not only their mobile strategy, but their complete GUI strategy as well. The first target device to launch will be the iPad.

During our IT Executive Summit at Roy’s later that first evening, SnapLogic customers and partners got ready to enjoy a four-course feast of Hawaiian fusion cuisine. After a warm welcome by Gaurav Dhillon, CEO of SnapLogic, the room lit up with engaging iPad and non-iPad-related conversations. Mark Brennan of Pandora spoke eloquently about the challenges and unanswered questions each of us now faces on our cloud-computing journeys. Steven Mandelbaum, of the Advisory Board Company, offered some sage advice from the trenches. Then cloud-computing luminary Phil Wainewright took us through his thinking behind the Connection Imperative. Another theme that night was how easy it is for an individual to switch-on and consume powerful business applications and services of every type. Put simply, individuals not just IT departments are introducing new applications, services and yes, iPads, into their environments.

Of course, the iPad also played a starring role for SnapLogic. When we started brainstorming Dreamforce booth ideas, we thought it would be engaging to have booth visitors sketch out there integration fantasies on, say, a whiteboard? or maybe a block of butcher paper? or maybe one of 6 roving iPads!

We had over 200 people take the time to sketch out their integration fantasies. These same iPads also held a short presentation as well as the first iPad App for Integration, which we announced from the expo floor.

I personally spoke with over 100 visitors to our booth and was astonished by how many of them were unsatisfied with both traditional middleware as well as newer SaaS and appliance-based integration solutions. It’s not their fault. The design point for all those other solutions was 10 to 15+ years ago. They weren’t meant to operate in the Internet era, much less the post-PC era.

During our sold-out sessions on Integration is Dead. Connecting Your Business to the Cloud at Warp Speed, someone asked “Can technology be retrofitted?” I liked John Schuster?s answer that “you can put rockets on a tractor and send it to the moon, but why would you?” And therein lies the source of some of the challenges I personally face when explaining SnapLogic. Is it a newer version of Informatica? No. About as much as Salesforce is just a newer version of Siebel. And (wait for it?), as much as the iPad is just a newer version of a PC. What?s SnapLogic? To quote the great Steve Jobs, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” So, come see for yourself by signing up for a 14-day live trial.

In the end, all of this got me thinking about the growing number of applications being built on iOS and Android and how this is only going to continue to push everyone towards a more modern connection fabric one, based on the same RESTful architecture as the web itself.

It’s already starting to happen. Salesforce’s collection of REST APIs for CRM, Force.com, Database.com, Data.com and now Chatter are further proof points that the future of Cloud integration is based on REST. We are seeing this play out in our own developer community, which showcased almost a dozen different solutions at our booth. For example, Cervello (pictured below) created an integration pipleline that fed Facebook, Twitter and Google Analytics data into leading cloud-based BI vendor Birst.

Programmable web now says that 72% of all APIs registered on their site are REST-based. Makes sense. After all, your iPad is just another http end-point connecting you to your social enterprise.


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