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Protocol | Enterprise

Salesforce is building a private CRM for the State Department

It's the software giant's first major foray into handling secret government info.

Salesforce logo

Salesforce is ramping up efforts to sell its software to the U.S. government.

Photo: Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Salesforce is working with the State Department to build a CRM system for its field staff, Protocol has learned. It's the software giant's first major foray into handling secret government info.

The company already has a robust government business that is poised to generate over $1 billion annually, according to sources and public information. By itself, the contract with the State Department, which was previously undisclosed, will be ultimately worth "several hundreds of millions of dollars," per one source. Salesforce is also looking to beef up its presence in the federal government; it recently posted job openings for several roles focused on selling software to health care agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the State Department project is the first time Salesforce would be dealing with confidential data. And there are signs the company is gearing up to do more. For example, it's seeking a "business architect director" for its public sector unit who must be a U.S. citizen, and includes security clearances such as "Top Secret SCI Cleared," one of several roles seeking such credentials. Salesforce is trying to keep the project confidential; individuals working on it were asked to sign NDAs, according to one source, but the company's legal department ultimately said it was unnecessary.

Salesforce declined to comment. In an emailed statement, the State Department said it "has been invested in deploying Salesforce CRM technology as an enterprise contact management platform to support embassies and domestic offices since 2018."

"The purpose of the deployment is to provide a modern, unified application that captures contact information and historical data and context to those contacts for more than 270 diplomatic posts overseas," a State Department spokesperson added. To date, costs have totaled roughly $61 million, including $35 million on labor costs and $26 million on licenses, per the agency.

The project marks Salesforce's first time building a completely private system for a single customer. While some clients have portions of their overall system that run separately from Salesforce's servers and on their own databases, none operates completely independently and each is still connected directly to Salesforce.

But the State Department's system will be completely separate, meaning that if Salesforce launched it and did nothing, the software would effectively continue to run in perpetuity (barring any internal errors), unaffected by any broader changes the company would make to its own tech, per one source familiar with the plans. To be able to still access the network, Salesforce is said to be building a SCIF, which is basically a secure room to conduct confidential operations. The Senate uses a SCIF, for example, for its sensitive intelligence briefings.

The setup, however, is not a totally new concept for the organization. For instance, Salesforce partnered with Alibaba in 2019 to sell its CRM software to companies in Asia. Those systems run entirely on Alibaba's servers in China, per the source, a similar move that other foreign companies also take to comply with the country's laws regarding stored data. Again, Salesforce declined to comment.

Outside of the State Department contract, Salesforce also expanded its reach into the intelligence community with its purchase of Acumen Solutions in December, a consulting company that counts the U.S. Army, State Department and the Department of Homeland Security as customers.

Salesforce's growing federal business has drawn some criticism from its own employees, specifically over the company's work with DHS. In response, Salesforce previously specified that its contract with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency didn't cover work on Trump's family separation policy. At the time, the company also said it didn't have a contract with ICE. While Salesforce doesn't, Tableau and MuleSoft (which Salesforce purchased in 2019 and 2018, respectively) both work with the immigration enforcement unit, per sources. Once again, Salesforce declined to comment.
Transforming 2021

The future of retail is hiding in an abandoned mall

The warehouse is moving closer to customers' houses as ecommerce eats the world of retail.

Microfulfillment centers could help retailers compete with the largest ecommerce companies.

Photo: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The American mall has been decimated by the rise in ecommerce. But soon, it may also be their savior — sort of, at least.

Long before the pandemic kept people at home in front of their computers, buying everything they needed to see out lockdown online, malls were on the decline and ecommerce was on the rise.

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Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

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The future of computing at the edge: an interview with Intel’s Tom Lantzsch

An interview with Tom Lantzsch, SVP and GM, Internet of Things Group at Intel

An interview with Tom Lantzsch

Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corporation

Edge computing had been on the rise in the last 18 months – and accelerated amid the need for new applications to solve challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Tom Lantzsch, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corp., thinks there are more innovations to come – and wants technology leaders to think equally about data and the algorithms as critical differentiators.

In his role at Intel, Lantzsch leads the worldwide group of solutions architects across IoT market segments, including retail, banking, hospitality, education, industrial, transportation, smart cities and healthcare. And he's seen first-hand how artificial intelligence run at the edge can have a big impact on customers' success.

Protocol sat down with Lantzsch to talk about the challenges faced by companies seeking to move from the cloud to the edge; some of the surprising ways that Intel has found to help customers and the next big breakthrough in this space.

What are the biggest trends you are seeing with edge computing and IoT?

A few years ago, there was a notion that the edge was going to be a simplistic model, where we were going to have everything connected up into the cloud and all the compute was going to happen in the cloud. At Intel, we had a bit of a contrarian view. We thought much of the interesting compute was going to happen closer to where data was created. And we believed, at that time, that camera technology was going to be the driving force – that just the sheer amount of content that was created would be overwhelming to ship to the cloud – so we'd have to do compute at the edge. A few years later – that hypothesis is in action and we're seeing edge compute happen in a big way.

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Saul Hudson
Saul Hudson has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, especially in understanding and targeting messages in cutting-edge technologies. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, in helping companies to build passionate audiences and accelerate their growth. Hudson has reported from more than 30 countries, from war zones to boardrooms to presidential palaces. He has led multinational, multi-lingual teams and managed operations for hundreds of journalists. Hudson is a Managing Partner at Angle42, a strategic communications consultancy.
Protocol | Enterprise

A Black Salesforce manager alleged a ‘culture of rampant microaggressions’

The company continues to face criticism over what employees claim is a failure to match external hype about equality with internal progress.

Salesforce is ramping up efforts to sell its software to the U.S. government.
Photo: Stephen Lam/Getty Images

The internal backlash against Salesforce's touted diversity and inclusion efforts continues.

Vivianne Castillo, a manager in Salesforce's design research and innovation unit, announced her departure earlier this month in an internal note that criticized the software giant's culture as one that is discriminatory against Black employees, according to a screenshot of the company chat that was viewed by Protocol. Her last day is Friday, per a Twitter post.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Transforming 2021

Blockchain, QR codes and your phone: the race to build vaccine passports

Digital verification systems could give people the freedom to work and travel. Here's how they could actually happen.

One day, you might not need to carry that physical passport around, either.

Photo: CommonPass

There will come a time, hopefully in the near future, when you'll feel comfortable getting on a plane again. You might even stop at the lounge at the airport, head to the regional office when you land and maybe even see a concert that evening. This seemingly distant reality will depend upon vaccine rollouts continuing on schedule, an open-sourced digital verification system and, amazingly, the blockchain.

Several countries around the world have begun to prepare for what comes after vaccinations. Swaths of the population will be vaccinated before others, but that hasn't stopped industries decimated by the pandemic from pioneering ways to get some people back to work and play. One of the most promising efforts is the idea of a "vaccine passport," which would allow individuals to show proof that they've been vaccinated against COVID-19 in a way that could be verified by businesses to allow them to travel, work or relax in public without a great fear of spreading the virus.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Protocol | Enterprise

Rimini Street is trying to stifle SAP and Oracle's cloud business

The animosity dates back over a decade, but the feud is reaching new heights.

Search for Rimini Street in Google, and one of the top results that pops up, just below the company's own site, is this one from Oracle.

Image: Protocol

For over a decade, a bitter feud has been raging in the enterprise software industry, pitting SAP and Oracle against Rimini Street, a relative unknown in comparison that's trying to undermine one of their most lucrative revenue streams. Now, that battle is nearing a pinnacle as the legacy providers try to persuade their customers to make the pivot to the cloud.

Founded in 2005 by former PeopleSoft executives, Rimini Street made a name for itself offering cheaper support for Oracle and SAP products than the vendors themselves provide. The business model hits at an under-the-radar, but critical aspect of deploying big-ticket products from any software titan: the need to continually keep the systems up to date. And the importance of that maintenance revenue stream — one of the largest for both SAP and Oracle — is evident in the intensity of the drama with Rimini Street.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

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