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Unexpected Salesforce Shutdown Hurts Partners

Salesforce.com  partners had to scramble their customer service crews in a hurry this week because of an unexpected shutdown of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor's platform, internetnews.com has learned.

Salesforce.com, the leading vendor of on-demand customer relationship management, seemed to have put doubts about the SaaS delivery model to rest with a fairly flawless performance following its well-publicized service outage in December 2005.

Rather than affecting its own customers directly, this new shutdown has created problems for other SaaS vendors that rely on its AppExchange platform to win customers. One of the partners, who wished to remain anonymous in order to preserve its relationship with Salesforce.com, complained that it was unable to deliver its product for sale or trial for two days.

"Our customers think it's our fault; we looked like fools this week for suggesting they visit the AppExchange to access the product," the partner said.

More than the outage itself, the partner complained that Salesforce.com failed to explain what was going on. "That technology fails, we understand. The failure to communicate, we do not."

Salesforce.com admitted that the outage was due to maintenance, but thought it had warned its partners that the service would be going down.

"It seems like we could have done a better job in communicating," said Bruce Francis, Salesforce.com vice president of corporate strategy in an e-mail. "We apologize for the inconvenience and pledge to do a better job of communicating with our partners in the future."

Beth Enslow, who follows SaaS for the Aberdeen Group, warned that this kind of shutdown takes on increasing importance because an increasing number of mission-critical applications are being run on an on-demand basis.

"Unplanned-for downtimes and performance issues have a significant impact on customers' businesses and how they make their money," she said.

One such incident won't affect Salesforce.com or its partners because of the inherent value of the SaaS model, she said, but "it's a red flag that they need to over-communicate to their partners and almost over-invest in their infrastructure so they can avoid these kinds of situations," she told internetnews.com.