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Salesforce to Roll Web Hosting, With Force

SAN FRANCISCO -- Salesforce.com chairman and CEO Marc Benioff plans to make the software as a service (SaaS) company even more prominent in the cloud.

Speaking to a packed house at the company's Dreamforce 2008 conference today, he discussed tie-ins with other cloud players such as (NASDAQ: GOOG) Facebook and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN).

Plus, it wouldn't be a Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) annual user event without Benioff pitching some woo to the independent software vendors as he pitched the news that Salesforce.com will move into cloud and Web hosting.

"There has never been a better time for cloud computing and there has never been a better time for Salesforce.com," Benioff said.

Enterprises have been interested in cloud computing because it will help them cut costs and go green. That interest has skyrocketed in the wake of the global financial crisis, which has forced businesses to reduce IT spending.

A panel of experts recently picked cloud computing as the next great computing revolution. Benioff's remarks reminded the fray of the buzz surrounding cloud computing.

For instance, he pointed to Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) announcement last week of Azure, its cloud computing platform, as legitimizing the concept of the cloud. "I can't even pronounce it [Azure] but I don't care; they're moving to the cloud," Benioff said.

Salesforce.com has long had ties with Google and will strengthen those ties, Benioff said, before announcing Force.com for Facebook, an application that lets enterprises leverage their investment in Salesforce.com through building in social applications.

"You can call Facebook APIs (application programming interfaces), make Facebook Markup queries, create a new class of business applications that leverage the social graph," Benioff said.

Facebook has more than 300,000 applications run by businesses today, Sheryl Sandberg, the social networking site's chief operating officer, told the audience. Salesforce.com users who build applications on Facebook will get immediate access to the site's 120 million users worldwide, and can leverage Facebook Connect to link into any Website in the world and leverage Facebook users' links, Sandberg added.

Let's all play in the cloud

Benioff also announced a tie-in between Force.com and Amazon.com's Amazon Web Services. Installing Force.com for Amazon Web Services links the Force.com files natively with Amazon S3 and EC2.

Salesforce.com is also moving into cloud hosting services. "You can use our database and database services and our relational model and you don't have to go and buy a database and applications any more," Benioff said.

The vendor is also offering backup and recovery services. "The time for you to do all this is over," Benioff said. "let us provide operation services to you."

The SaaS vendor will also offer Web hosting, Benioff announced. The 85,000 custom Force.com applications developed by customers can now instantly become Web applications, he said.

Customers will be able to run their Web applications on the Force.com Web hosting services include Web pages, self registration, domain and URL management, and RSS and content syndication, Benioff added.

Existing customers will get Web sites included with their subscriptions, with the number of sites available depending on their subscription level. Group subscribers get 50,000 pages a month free, for example, and Unlimited Edition customers one million pages a month free.

Benioff also strongly wooed independent software vendors (ISVs), promising them support. He announced business services for ISVs. "Let us help you sell and market your products through our checkout services," he said. "We'll do the licensing and provisions and renewals for you the same way we do for our customers."

Dreamforce 2008 has drawn almost 10,000 attendees from over 40 countries, Benioff said.