Benioff spent 13 years at Oracle before leaving to found SalesForce.com in 1999. Since then the company has in many ways defined the Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud computing market, and continues to be a leader in both its CRM service and, increasingly in the platform as a service (PaaS) and social collaboration areas. The company's Force.com and Heroku services allow users to create applications that link in with the CRM application, while the company's Chatter feature is meant to be a social media-like platform for enterprise use. In addition to Benioff, Cisco also added Kristina Johnson, CEO of hydroelectric company Enduring Hydro and a former U.S. Department of Energy undersecretary.
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"Marc has changed the face of technology through his bold ideas around cloud computing and the social enterprise. Kristina brings us an unmatched expertise in science and technology, which will help guide Cisco as we continue to innovate and transform our customers' experiences," Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers said in a statement.
It's a mutually-beneficial relationship for both Cisco and SalesForce.com, says Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst, ZK Research. Chambers, he says, has spoken about how cloud computing is one of the most network-centric paradigm shifts in computing. "The network is going to play a huge role in the overall experience of cloud-based apps," Kerravala says. So, it's not only important for Cisco to work with leading cloud service providers, but also for those CSPs, such as SalesForce.com to work with the leading networking player. Cisco itself, he says, is not only looking to be a cloud provider of communications-centric applications delivered through the cloud, but will also continue to upgrade the cloud experience.
Cisco had somewhat of an issue regarding its cloud strategy recently when Wi-Fi routers from the company's Linksys division automatically pushed customers toward using the Cisco Connect Cloud administration service, which the company later reversed course on and removed, making it an opt-in feature instead.
Other notable members of the Cisco board of directors include Carol Bartz, former Yahoo CEO and John Hennessy, president of Stanford University.