Dreamforce 2011, Workday Tech Summit, and the Post-PC World

For those of us that live in the SaaS or cloud world, Dreamforce is the main event of the year. This year’s Dreamforce, held the last week of August, was no exception: 45,000 people registered to attend and some great product announcements came out of the event. It was a personally exciting time for me, as we announced a major partnership with salesforce.com, and earlier that week hosted our second Workday Tech Summit.

The Tech Summit is an annual event where we invite 20 of the software industry’s top analysts and walk them through the Workday technology stack and applications. It was well received—nearly 1,200 tweets passed across Twitter in one day using the event’s hashtag, #workdaytech.

So after a few weeks of reflection and gaining additional data points, I’d like to share some observations:

  • Cloud adoption is no longer a question of if, but when and how fast. Accenture, Deloitte, IBM, and Dell all had a major presence at Dreamforce. Even traditional software companies like Infor were paying homage to the cloud. Of greater significance, the number of large enterprises embracing the cloud seems to be exploding. I personally met with two dozen CIOs from some of the world’s largest companies who are in the cloud in a big way and are pleased with the results.
  • Most (if not all) of the innovation in the enterprise apps world is happening in the cloud. Mobile, social, connectivity, embedded analytics—all these transformational technologies are being delivered first in the cloud by companies such as salesforce.com and Workday. It’s questionable if these important new technologies will ever see the light of day in legacy applications.
  • We really are entering the post-PC era. As usual, Steve Jobs got it right. Not only was salesforce.com showcasing numerous apps on mobile devices at Dreamforce, the majority of vendors on the expo floor were demoing their own mobile solutions, typically on an iPad® tablet—a dramatic shift from Dreamforce 2010. Indeed, we dedicated a significant part of our Tech Summit to our mobile strategy, and showcased Workday for iPad, which is now available on the App Store℠ online store.
  • Marc and team are doing a great job leading the cloud movement. As usual, salesforce.com put on a great show, with an excellent combination of keynote presentations, demonstrations, and entertainment. (I was fortunate to sit two seats away from will.i.am during the second keynote, but was too much of a wimp to say hi.) And once again, salesforce.com showed its innovation through live demos rather than the boring Powerpoint slides that are the bane of the legacy enterprise apps world.

Considering these observations as a whole, it’s obvious we are witnessing the dawn of a new age of enterprise applications that bear little resemblance to the previous generation of legacy apps. The enterprise cloud continues to collide with consumer-driven technologies such as mobile, social, and open Web services, delivering the next generation of enterprise apps right before our eyes. These apps more closely match the way people work (collaboratively) and support the devices they use to perform their work (mobile).

The good news for native cloud vendors is the underlying technologies used to build cloud apps have a nearly 100% overlap with the technologies used to develop mobile and social apps. For the legacy vendors, the innovations occurring in social, mobile, and Web-services technologies only make the gap greater and odds lower that they’ll be able to catch up. It’s no longer just a debate about on-premise apps vs. the cloud from a delivery and architecture perspective; it’s now about consumer-driven innovation that is happening ONLY in the cloud.

Of course, I’m biased, being a citizen of the cloud. And in the end, enterprise technology buyers and consumers will choose the best solutions to meet their needs and budgets. That said, I am delighted to roll the dice and see what happens over the next few years. I have only one prediction for the legacy vendors: snake eyes.

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