Marc Benioff, co-chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc., left, and Bret Taylor, co-chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc., during a keynote at the 2022 Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, California, US, on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Tens of thousands of techies will frolic through kitschy national park-themed decorations in San Franciscos downtown this week as Salesforce Inc.s annual Dreamforce conference returns in full after two pandemic years. Photographer: Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo: Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Slack has a Quip handy

Protocol Enterprise

Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: why Slack thinks it can prevent Microsoft Teams from taking over the office, Salesforce gets into the real-time CDP market, and Nvidia wants everybody to use large language models.

Blank canvas

It’s been just over a year since Salesforce closed its monster $27 billion deal for real-time messaging app Slack. Slack not only gives Salesforce access to millions of potential new users, but it helps drive engagement amongst existing customers.

While Salesforce may be the de facto CRM for many organizations, “relying on a separate platform (like Webex, Microsoft or Zoom) for collaboration takes users outside of the Salesforce ecosystem,” said Futurum Research analyst Shelly Kramer. That’s why Salesforce has been heads down since the acquisition, trying to integrate Slack seamlessly with its Sales and Service clouds and across its full suite of products.

As one of Salesforce’s most visible products, Slack will be front and center at this year’s Dreamforce, which kicked off Tuesday in San Francisco.

  • The biggest Slack-related announcement at Dreamforce will be a feature called Slack canvas, built from Salesforce’s shareable document software Quip.
  • Nate Botwick, formerly VP of product with Quip, oversaw the process of building canvas.
  • Canvases will be collaborative documents within channels that compile files, checklists and other important information that could previously just be pinned as messages by users.
  • They’ll link to workflows like requesting a work phone, and pull data from Salesforce Sales Cloud.

“It is a more persistent space to organize around this preexisting organization of channels,” said Slack senior vice president of product Ali Rayl. “This is a powerful thing we get with channels, which is that the right people are already there.”

  • Quip-turned-canvas has its roots in the Salesforce-Slack acquisition.
  • Co-CEO Bret Taylor co-founded Quip in 2012, and Salesforce acquired the product in 2016. Fast forward a few years and, according to Botwick, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield approached Salesforce with interest in acquiring Quip.
  • Incorporating collaborative documents within Slack had been a part of Slack’s original pitch deck when it was first getting up and running, Botwick said.
  • But as we all know, those talks ended with Salesforce acquiring Slack instead of Slack acquiring Quip.

The connection to the broader Salesforce suite is a benefit for Slack, as it’s where employees are already working. But it's a play Microsoft also has, to an even greater degree, with Microsoft Teams, which has 145 million users.

  • Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, said companies are absolutely using both Salesforce and Microsoft products. The question is which ones they’re paying for, as Slack and Teams offer some features for free.
  • “There are many companies that are Microsoft shops,” Rubin said. “Do they need both? Teams can be a more general platform, whereas Salesforce might build functionality into Slack that’s heavily integrated into CRMs, for example.”
  • Futurum Research’s Kramer put it more bluntly: “Microsoft has pretty much won the collaboration wars,” she said.
  • “I’m pretty scared if I’m [Salesforce co-CEO Marc] Benioff with Slack, going into a recession,” said Wing Venture Capital partner Zach DeWitt. “I think Microsoft is going to be very aggressive on distribution and pricing over the next few years here.”

Read the full story here.

— Aisha Counts (email | twitter) and Lizzy Lawrence (email | twitter)

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Capital One’s adoption of modern cloud and data capabilities led us to create tools to operate at scale in the cloud. Capital One Software is bringing these solutions to market to help you accelerate your cloud and data journey. Get started with Slingshot, a data management solution for Snowflake customers.

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Genie in a bottle

Salesforce also announced the release of Genie, a real-time customer data platform connecting all of the company’s clouds, at Dreamforce 2022 Tuesday.

“This is about the most significant innovation we have done for the platform in many, many years,” Rahul Auradkar, executive vice president and general manager of unified data services and Einstein at Salesforce, told Protocol.

Spurred by the impending death of third-party cookies and the rise in privacy regulations such as GDPR and CCPA, companies have been scrambling for ways to capture and utilize first-party data. That’s why companies from Adobe to Twilio and now Salesforce are investing millions in customer data platforms, or CDPs, which serve as centralized repositories for all of a customer’s first-party data and interactions.

Prior to Genie, Salesforce’s customer data was scattered, but now the SaaS giant will be able to collect, organize and unify it. “We had all of the data inside of our clouds,” said Auradkar. Now, “we are bringing it together in a big data fashion and then augmenting our existing platform,” he said.

By taking the decades of customer data Salesforce already has and mapping it to individuals, the company can build out customer profiles that enable more personalized sales and marketing interactions. Although Salesforce had previously taken some steps in that direction, that method didn’t enable real-time data streams. With Genie, Salesforce can provide a real-time view of customer data right within its CRM.

From there, Salesforce hopes to unlock intelligent and analytical insights via Einstein, its flagship AI software. “We've taken CDP and we have made it broad beyond marketing, across all the other disciplines like service, sales industries, Tableau, etc.,” said Auradkar. “And we're even feeding that into Einstein for inferencing on predictions as well.”

The combination of Salesforce’s rich customer data with real-time analytics could be a potent mix that propels the company’s continued dominance in the CRM space. The demand for better customer experiences isn’t going away anytime soon, and Genie may give Salesforce another way to keep its own longtime customers on its platform.

— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)

Securing the enterprise

In today’s global landscape, cybersecurity threats are something that every business operating on the internet must face, not just enormous tech companies. In this Protocol virtual event on Oct. 4th at 10am PT, we’ll examine the current best practices for securing both large and small to medium-sized businesses, providing viewers with a true threat landscape and information they can use to make decisions about the strategy that best supports their business goals.

RSVP here.

AI as a cloud service

Nvidia’s semi-annual GTC conference is typically packed with dozens of updates about the company’s various chips and software products — and this year was no different. We got new video game graphics chips, updated autonomous driving tech and saw its Omniverse software move to the cloud.

But amid the deluge of information, what stood out to us was Nvidia’s plan to launch two AI models as cloud services. Training large language models can be a costly, time consuming activity that puts it out of reach for a large number of businesses and scientific activities that could benefit from them.

Nvidia has taken two of its models — the NeMo Large Language Model Service and BioNeMo LLM Service — and engineered a much cheaper and faster way to customize each of the models for a specific application via a training method called prompt learning. Once trained with a few hundred examples, the model can be deployed via an API.

The BioNeMo service is specifically designed for chemistry and biology applications, while the NeMo model focuses on code development, chat bots and text summarization, among other uses. The company said both would be available in early access beginning in October.

The AI-as-a-service business is just the latest example of Nvidia’s drive into software and services. Nvidia CFO Colette Kress said Tuesday that Nvidia’s software and services business has an annual run rate of “a couple hundred million” and the company “plans to grow from that.”

The AI services business will be billed based on consumption, CEO Jensen Huang said.

“It will likely be a model that’s very similar to a cloud service provider’s per GPU hour, except that it would be value added per GPU hour,” he said. “And net of the value-added price, you should still see much, much lower cost and, at the very minimum, much more effective, much easier way to train your model.”

— Max A. Cherney (email | twitter)

Around the enterprise

Microsoft made a key cybersecurity feature a default option in the new version of Windows 11, which could “eradicate” a commonly used hacking technique.

Oracle plugged a nasty cross-tenant security vulnerability after it was identified by a researcher, joining other cloud vendors that have had to deal with problems once thought solved by years of cloud development.

A MESSAGE FROM CAPITAL ONE SOFTWARE

Capital One’s adoption of modern cloud and data capabilities led us to create tools to operate at scale in the cloud. Capital One Software is bringing these solutions to market to help you accelerate your cloud and data journey. Get started with Slingshot, a data management solution for Snowflake customers.

Learn more

Thanks for reading — see you tomorrow!

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