SAN FRANCISCO--After a decade as the chief evangelist in the wilderness of software as a service, which has morphed into cloud computing, founder and CEO Marc Benioff is having a more challenging time coming up with groundbreaking industry disruptions. But that isn't stopping him from enthusiastically preaching the cloud computing gospel.

Benioff and company have built a $1 billion business and gradually expanded a CRM application, run like Google runs search in the cloud, into a platform that greatly reduces the friction involved in business software development and delivery. With Microsoft recently entering the cloud-computing platform arena with Azure and practically every vendor staking a claim to the cloud, Benioff's vision has been legitimized and turned into the next big thing. But that just makes Benioff try harder. is no longer the underdog, but Benioff is relentlessly touting his "no software" theme and irreverently characterizing Microsoft, SAP, and Oracle as dinosaurs.

At the Dreamforce annual customer conference here Monday morning, before a crowd of 10,000 adherents, a supercharged Benioff came out on stage, seeking to maintain his crown as the Pied Piper of cloud-based business software. "There has never been a better time for cloud computing and for," he said. He was likely referring to the troubled economy, which makes cloud-based software services an attractive alternative to traditional software business models.

The news of the day is an evolution of the, the company's development platform for building and running business applications in the cloud. sites will allow customers to run their Web applications on, and takes care of the domain, URL, and RSS management. In effect, the new service further consolidates's hold on a company's data and public Web presence. The company also announced for Amazon Web Services, which allows applications to be built between the Amazon and clouds.

In addition, the company announced for Facebook, which allows developers to use the Facebook APIs within applications and tap into Facebook social graph data via the Facebook Platform and Facebook Connect. The combination will lead to social CRM and social sales, Benioff said. "Facebook has over 300,000 pages run by businesses," said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg during the Dreamforce keynote. "By coming together with we are about to unleash enterprise apps on our network," she said.

Steve Fisher, senior vice president of the platform, showed a recruiting application running within Facebook. The connection with could also be another source of revenue for Facebook, beyond advertising.

Cloud computing is becoming mainstream and Benioff is trying to ensure that he is upstream from the competition. He may not remain in that position, but he will continue to push the industry a whole deeper into the cloud.

Source: / outside the lines

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