Voices of CRM

Sep 30 2011   12:49PM GMT

Salesforce, Microsoft, SAP take different tacks on CRM data management

Rosemary Cafasso Profile: Rosecafasso

Could a CRM data management battle be coming?

 Salesforce.com did a curious thing recently. First it made a big deal at Dreamforce about a new database feature called DRO, or Data Residency Option. Then it decided it didn’t want to talk about it.

DRO would let customers keep some CRM data on site and some in the cloud. The feature could be a big boost to customers in regulated industries that may have been reluctant or unable to use a cloud-based CRM because of data privacy and security issues.

When asked to comment about how customers might construct this data environment, a company spokesman said Salesforce.com would talk more about it when DRO became available in 2012.

Well, Salesforce.com may have nothing to say right now, but, not surprisingly, its competition is happy to weigh in on CRM data management issues.

Microsoft, for example, responded to a request for comment with a statement noting that it already has a capability similar to DRO but doesn’t often recommend it.  

“Microsoft Dynamics CRM does have the capability to split data in the same data set between cloud and on-premises deployments,” the company stated. “However, we recommend that customers keep these data sets together either on-premises or in the cloud, which they can do with Microsoft Dynamics CRM given its deployment options.”

Microsoft asserted there are potential performance problems with splitting where data resides. “One reason for this is that for reporting and many transactions, etc., customers will be joining data sets that reside across networks (internal/ external), which depending on network speeds, etc.,  could result in less than optimal experience.”

Meanwhile, SAP came at the CRM data issue from a different angle.  It responded to a request for comment about DRO by noting its in-memory database, known as HANA, would make the data location issue secondary because HANA is able to cache data from various sources and process it more quickly.

“Think of it as a new data platform,” a company spokesman said. “It replicates data from the CRM database, front-end mobile system or the cloud. You can have CRM on premise, cloud, or mobile. This is irrespective of where the data is.”

So which vendor seems to have the better CRM data story?  Too bad Salesforce.com isn’t joining the discussion because some industry analysts are saying DRO could have real impact for customers.

For instance, Ray Wang, CEO and principal analyst with Constellation Research, for instance, considers DRO “a big deal.”

“This issue is not that data can be kept on premise,” Wang said. “It’s more about how do you [manage data] without violating laws. By providing DRO, you are allowing companies to take advantage of the cloud while complying with legal requirements.”

Other analysts agreed DRO could be a game-changer for companies who have held off on considering the cloud because of privacy and security issues.

DRO “opens the door for a broad base of users who have been hesitant,” said Jeff Kaplan, managing director of ThinkStrategies. “So, this basically makes the entire marketplace open to adoption of SaaS.”

And Paul Greenberg, president of The 56 Group LLC, said that Salesforce.com is the first company he knows of who will be providing a choice of where to put data on such a granular level.  Salesforce said at Dreamforce that customers could select data fields to reside on premise and assign other data fields to the cloud.

“For now, this locks, Salesforce’s position as the leader in SaaS and cloud applications,” Greenberg said.

But which vendor will own the story about CRM data management?

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