co-founder predicts what the cloud market will look like co-founder Parker Harris discusses key product growth areas for the company, the challenges of innovating, the future of development and flexible infrastructure, and what the cloud market itself will look like years from now.

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How do you do that once and provide it for everyone? That’s where I’m a big believer in cloud computing and platforms. We have a platform, AppExchange. I can pre-integrate things. Microsoft is finally a great partner of ours. We can pre-integrate with Microsoft. We’re doing that today in Office 365. I do it once because it’s cloud-to-cloud and you get that benefit. That’s instead of saying: ‘You want to integrate your Exchange with Salesforce? We have consultants and we have a way to do that. Here’s the SOW, let’s come in and do that.’

You’re seeing that also at the low end. Little companies that we look at and we admire. Slack is kind of an interesting company. [Ed. note: Slack is a platform for team communication.] They’re pre-integrating all that stuff and there’s a ton of value in that pre-integration. Pre-integration wouldn’t be possible if those services didn’t have APIs, if they weren’t platforms, if they weren’t on the Internet on cloud.

I don’t think that there will be a massive consolidation. I think some companies may try to do that. If that were our strategy, we would become old, slow, adding tons of products and I really don’t believe one company can do a fantastic job at that breadth, making it fully integrated and everything working perfectly.

Do you think that customers will be willing to continue to use best-of-breed cloud solutions because in the past they seemed perfectly willing to give up best-of in order to get somebody else to handle the integration.

Harris: Because integration was expensive. I do think that from a contract perspective, customers more and more will start to look for one relationship or one contract and I think we need to find ways [to deal with that] from a business relationship perspective. I was just out in Boston with Schneider Electric, a big partner. An amazing innovator.

They’re asking us how to help them think about the partners they use and not just from a contract perspective, but also from a support perspective and so we’re working with them on that. But we’re working with them because we want to solve Schneider’s problem, not solve our view of how to work with these other companies. We’re going to figure out how we can serve them. We’re going to let our customers guide us. I do think that there will be some demands of the really large corporations.

The other part of this, though, is that software companies find it more challenging to grow within a single area. I don’t think any cloud provider is near market saturation but as they get closer, as the growth slows, that’s the other force that pushes companies to broaden their portfolio. What I’d love to understand is five years from now, what does the cloud industry look like?

Harris: Bigger. I think we will see a lot of innovation at the low end, just as we came in and innovated when Siebel was the big player. As a company we have to constantly look for how to disrupt ourselves. We’re investing in these small companies. We’re buying these small companies. We somehow manage to bring in lots of crazy personalities. We had an event yesterday for a lot of our portfolio companies that we’ve invested in, just trying to teach them things that we’ve learned. [We talked to them about our] management model, which we call V2MOM, which is the planning process to align everyone.

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