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Salesforce.com on Wednesday threw a stake in the ground to demonstrate that
its cloud computing platform offers a viable profitability engine for its
partners.

The software-as-a-service pioneer launched a new reseller partner program that
allows consulting VAR partners to resell
Salesforce.com’s Force.com enterprise cloud computing platform. The company is
looking for partners to resell the platform as a service, but also develop
their own customized solutions running on the platform, according to Mark
Trang, senior director of partner marketing. Participation in the program is
free and includes enablement, training and other resources.

How the channel makes money from cloud computing has been a major sticking
point for solution providers thinking about reorienting their organizations,
Trang said. 

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Check out: Framing a Common Definition for Cloud Computing

“With cloud computing, pricing has been there for end customers, developers and
ISVs, but when it comes to the channel, there’s been a big gap,” Trang said.
“Partners have told us they are interested but have not seen a clear path to
profitability to make the transition.”

The business and pricing model that Salesforce.com has concocted includes
recurring revenue for partners—a big plus—and the ability to include add-on and
support services to the sale. Partners pay Salesforce.com for the services they
resell, at prices set by Salesforce, but then are free to bill the end
customers directly at the prices of their choosing. Entry-level Force.com
pricing for VARs begins at $7.50 per user per month.

Steven Warshawsky, director at Perficient, a $225 million integrator in Austin,
Texas, said his organization recently
completed an assessment of several cloud-based platform providers, including
Microsoft, Google and Amazon, but in the end signed on as a new Salesforce.com
Force.com reseller.

The reasons were threefold, Warshawsky said: One, the Force.com platform was
most mature, having been used by end customers and developers for several
years. By contrast, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, Azure, is not
expected to be generally available until this fall. Second, Force.com is
multitenant, while some of the other platforms were single tenant-based, which
Warshawsky says does not lend itself to a completely off-premises
services-based model.

Lastly, he points to the attraction of the recurring revenue model. VARs in the
Salesforce.com cloud program initially sell platform licenses to their
customers for upfront revenue, but then are permitted to reap recurring revenue
over the life of the customer contract.

“Salesforce.com is certainly making it so we can offer clients more bundled
services and create a longer-term relationship by packaging support along with
the platform services,” he said. “These are all things that went into the
decision.”