Dell links up with Salesforce's development platform

Dell has signed a three-year deal to use Salesforce's platform for custom development.

Dell has reached a three-year deal with Salesforce to use the latter's development platform to build software for its "entire global workforce," according to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

The deal is the largest ever for Salesforce, Benioff said during the company's earnings call on Wednesday, according to a transcript. He did not disclose the financial terms.

The two companies had an existing relationship. Dell's Web site is based on Salesforce's Ideas application, and the computer maker also uses the Salesforce automation system for its global sales team, Benioff said.

"We also have been working with some of their key software providers to port some of the applications that they have internally natively onto for them to use," Benioff said. "And all of that together, suddenly we were one of their key technology vendors and it really gave them the ability to sign what we call an enterprise license agreement with us."

Benioff did not specify whether the deal means Dell is replacing its entire internal tooling environment with, or merely intends to build applications for deployment enterprisewide.

Dell could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

"Having a big hitter commit to developing on is really important," said 451 Group analyst China Martens. "Previously, those committing have tended to be SaaS SMB players like Centive or Xactly or midmarket, on-premise apps vendors looking to get SaaSy quickly, like Coda."

In the past, Dell has "talked proudly about not needing to rely on a third-party vendor's ERP, but creating its own apps," Martens added. "So I wonder if that might be a possibility, as well as the ability to tailor Salesforce CRM more to the needs of its sales reps."

A sizable customer like Dell could also help serve as a real-life test bed for development, Martens said.

Also on the earnings call, Benioff cited statistics about's overall uptake. The service now has 100,000 registered developers, about double that of a year ago, and has been used to develop more than 80,000 custom applications, he said.

In addition, Benioff discussed how Salesforce plans to help its developers work with other cloud computing platforms from the likes of Google and Amazon.

"You are going to see us offering our customers natively Google App engine and other cloud computing paradigms directly from our [application programming interfaces]," he said. "You see it already where some of our ISVs build the majority of their application in but maybe will reach out to [Amazon], reach out to Google App Engine or others. We're going to collapse that access into our API to make it as easy as possible for them."

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