Marc Benioff's Burden: Outages
Posted by: Steve Hamm on April 27, 2006
It’s like a pesky housefly circling Marc Benioff’s head that just won’t go away no matter how many times he swats at it. Since December, the Salesforce.com Web site has been hit by a string of outages. No sooner does CEO Benioff conclude that he has the problem whipped when trouble strikes again. Now, a fix is in the works. He hopes. Within the next several weeks Benioff, plans on installing several new smaller servers to replace one large one that has been the main source of the problem. “I want to be done with this,” mutters a usually unflappable Benioff.
Benioff’s problems started in December after Salesforce.com, the leading seller of customer-relationship software as a service, revamped its two data centers in San Jose, Calif., and Northern Virginia. Almost immediately, there was an outage. Since then there have been a string of them, occurring every few weeks, and sometimes shutting the service down for more than an hour. The problems have included faulty hardware installation and a problem with a networking device, but it has mainly been problems with software on that large server. Analysts have hammered him and some customers are grumbling.
In an effort to mollify customers, Salesforce.com issued an apology and installed a monitoring device on its service that anybody can view to see how well the system is performing at any given time. Some of its rivals have taken to monitoring the site and sending e-mails to reporters whenever something is amiss.
The outages don’t seem to have harmed Salesforce.com’s business—not yet, anyway. Benioff says he hasn’t lost any customers, and his fourth-quarter earnings were unscathed. The first quarter report, due out any day, will tell the tale.
Benioff tends to see the bright side of trouble. In this case, he notes, “Our sales leads have been spiking on the outages. They’re at an all-time high.” In fact, he says, whenever Salesforce.com has had problems over the years, it has only expanded interest in the company. “These are huge branding events,” he says. “Every time our competitors say something negative about us, it gives us more girth.”
Just goes to show: Everything’s good when you’ve got the Big Mo.