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Salesforce Enters IoT Market

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At Salesforce’s recent Dreamforce conference, the company announced an upcoming IoT platform that will allow for the ingestion of real time data and turn it into actionable tasks across its suite of cloud based services.

The platform is called Thunder and is the collection of different open source technologies that allow customers to ingest, process and orchestrate events across systems.  The core technologies within the platform include:

  • Kafka (messaging)
  • Storm (streaming data)
  • Spark (in memory data
  • Cassandra (high scale database)

In addition to being an IoT technology stack, Thunder also is an input channel for many other Salesforce services. Salesforce’s Adam Bosworth, EVP of the IoT Cloud, envisions using the IoT Cloud to “collect and assemble big data, build extraordinary smart business rules about what you can do and use all of Saleforce’s cloud and do it in real time.”

The business rules and orchestration capabilities help differentiate Salesforce from other IoT offerings as it allows end users to configure simple workflows across the Salesforce Cloud without the need to write code. An example of end user orchestration that Salesforce has provided includes detecting a wind speed threshold being exceeded and subsequently the speed of the wind turbine being altered as illustrated in the following image.

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Salesforce has published some additional customer use cases including:

  • Notifying upcoming ride share passengers of traffic problems.
  • Alerting sales representatives of up-sale opportunities based upon existing product usage.
  • Airline agents being able to start booking customers new flights upon being notified of delays.

Bosworth also sees opportunities to “manage your product once it has been sold.  Ensure of a smooth onboarding process, ensure they continue to use your product and if they are withdrawing from it, work to win them back.”

Salesforce currently has a large ecosystem and is seeing some early interest in the upcoming platform by partners such as ARM, Informatica, Xively, LogMeIn and Microsoft.  In a customer case-study video, Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president and chief evangelist at Microsoft, said that customers can take real-time data from Azure Event Hubs to connect into Thunder and the Marketing Cloud, "which allows marketing teams, in real time, move from reactive analytics to predictive analytics.” Microsoft's presence as a launch partner is worth noting as the company competes with Salesforce on many levels.

There is a lot of competition for Salesforce in the IoT domain including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, GE and Intel.  While customers can run the Thunder platform standalone, Salesforce sees additional value by plugging Thunder into the rest of its portfolio of services. What differentiates the Salesforce offering is it has the cloud services and applications that can readily consume this data. Salesforce allows organizations to gain insight into their customers.  By introducing the IoT Cloud, they are giving their customers additional input channels to obtain this insight. This idea was re-enforced by Mark Benioff, chairman and chief executive officer at Salesforce, “The IoT Cloud will allow businesses to create real-time 1:1, proactive actions for sales, service, marketing or any other business process, delivering a new kind of customer success.”

Salesforce has not published a firm launch date for the IoT platform.  It is expected that pilot testing will commence sometime in the first half of 2016.  Doug Henschen, Constellation Research analyst, feels the platform will follow the pattern set by the recent release of Salesforce’s Lightning and customers will see IoT Cloud launched at next year’s Dreamforce conference. “It's fitting that Thunder is following Salesforce Lighting, last year's big Dreamforce announcement, as Lighting was revealed nearly a year before it actually became available.”

While Salesforce has presented some customer use cases on how the platform can be used it is still very early.  Doug Henschen feels there are many details that need to be worked out. “The bottom line is that Thunder is a roadmap positioning statement rather than a real capability at this point.”

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