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Salesforce.com takes aim at cloud storage market ... and Box

Company announces storage option for social platform, Chatter

By , Network World
September 19, 2012 05:04 PM ET

Network World - Salesforce.com, the 800-pound gorilla of software as a service (SaaS), today jumped into the public cloud storage market with what could be an eye toward one vendor in particular: Box.

At the company's annual Dreamforce user conference in San Francisco, CEO Marc Benioff launched Chatterbox, a new file storage feature within Chatter, Salesforce.com's social collaboration platform. Analysts say it's an interesting move not only for the cloud storage market, but for the Salesforce-Box relationship.

MORE DREAMFORCE: Salesforce.com reveals details of upcoming Chatterbox, Identity services 

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Salesforce.com was an investor in Box last year, part of an $81 million series D round, but today it seemed to take a shot at that company by taking Box's name, throwing it on to the end of its product and releasing what some consider a competing service. Ben Kepes, a cloud blogger, writes that Salesforce's new storage option is meant to be a "direct smack at Box CEO Aaron Levie by Benioff." 

While Chatterbox was officially announced at Salesforce's Dreamforce conference today in San Francisco, Benioff scooped his own company's news last week when he hinted at Chatterbox during an interview. Box, aware of the oncoming competition from Benioff and Salesforce, pre-empted the official Chatterbox news by announcing Box Accelerator, which is meant to enhance the upload speeds into Box to an average of 7MBps.

Analysts say the combined moves have created a certain rivalry between two companies that some may not have predicted.

IDC SaaS expert Robert Mahowald says Salesforce isn't just introducing Chatterbox as a blow against Box though, "everybody's getting in this game." Announcements from SocialCast and Yammer to extend storage features on their platforms are likely on the way as well, the analyst says. Salesforce could have a leg up on the competition given the cloud-based CRM software's ubiquity in the enterprise market. But Mahowald says Chatterbox is meant as a feature add on to the Chatter social platform, not as a separate business unit within Salesforce, diminishing the direct competition it poses to the companies like Box, DropBox, SugarSync and other cloud storage companies.

MORE CLOUD STORAGE: 5 Enterprise alternatives to DropBox 

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Salesforce's move could still be disruptive to the file storage market though, says Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Terri McClure. Box and other file storage systems, such as Huddle, are working on embedding social collaboration systems into their offerings, she says, while other cloud companies integrate their storage with Salesforce. Chatterbox could potentially offset those moves. The key, she says will be to look at ease of use and pricing. "Salesforce has a huge install base and there is no clear leader in the category of online file sharing and collaboration for business - so this will be interesting," she says.

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