Marc Benioff, CEO Salesforce.com broke his own embargo announcing on Twitter that Wave, the company's sixth cloud, is available in the Apple Appstore.
— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) October 12, 2014
You've got to love the way Benioff works the media at this time of the year, coming as it does on the eve of Dreamforce, the company's annual bonanza that clogs up chunks of San Francisco but which almost always entertains. So - what have we got?
Slick front endRight now, the consensus among colleagues is that Salesforce Wave, the company's sixth cloud, is a super slick front end operational analytics solution that is aimed first at the sales and marketing communities. This is not the same as business intelligence as we normally recognize it, which is aimed more at historical reporting plus budgeting, forecasting and planning.
Larry Dignan sees Wave as having the potential to reach much larger audiences in the enterprise space. I disagree. At least for now. I see this as a very lightweight way to introduce visualizations for the casual mobile user. That in itself could mean reaching many thousands of users and so seeding the market for the longer term goal of reaching everyone in the enterprise who has a customer touch point. In Salesforce.com's world that means everyone inside the enterprise but as we know, that's a stretch.
We're a long way off that. If you look at the announced partnerships, it is clear that Wave is missing a LOT of key functionality that a business intelligence solution normally needs. (see illustration below)
Ignoring the applications (ISV) partners to the right, you can see there is an impressive list of integration and consulting partners along with providers of predictive cloud analytics solutions. What does this tell us?
Holes to backfill?
We already know there is no real data extract, transform and load layer. That means application partners will likely need to build templates that customers will in turn, almost certainly want to customize for operational purposes. That will be particularly true for financial solutions and those that have more of an ERP flavor to them. In addition, we understand that the solution is not using a columnar database. Taken together, this means that on its face, it will be difficult for Wave to provide real time analytics at scale. Questions around this topic will be raised when we meet with executives from Salesforce.com
The upside is that the early screens we've seen suggest that the Edgespring acquisition which sits underneath Wave was a good choice for mobile visualizations. People we have spoken to say it is 'awesome' something you don't often hear in enterprise land. The fact that you can attach Wave snapshots to Chatter reinforces the collaborative message but at time of writing, it is unclear whether you can interact directly with those snapshots inside Chatter.
The longer term
Let's be clear, the potential for Salesforce Wave as an operational analytics tool is tantalizing. This will require much more by way of technology to make it truly sing but the revenue potential for Salesforce.com could be enormous.
Early soundings among those close to events suggest that for the longer term, Wave becomes the platform of choice for Salesforce.com analytics. That makes sense and, if correct, will bring a big sigh of relief for customers who have struggled with getting decent analytics from their Salesforce.com investments.
Wave sets up some interesting competitive positioning. Jack Clark at Bloomberg thinks this is a direct swipe at SAP, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle along with newer players like Tableau and Platfora. That sounds ambitious to me. If I was being asked to evaluate Wave for inclusion in a bake off, then I certainly would not position it in this way although I am sure, Salesforce.com would love to see that happen. At least not today.
We will be following this closely at Dreamforce so expect updates in the coming days.
Oh - and as a final endnote - I wonder how this will fit into whatever is said on the wearables front?
Disclosure: Salesforce.com, Oracle and SAP are premier partners at time of writing. Salesforce.com covered part of my travel costs for attending Dreamforce.