As rumors swirl about a potential acquisition of Salesforce.com, the biggest question has been about would-be buyers.
Much of the debate thus far has been about which companies have the cash to throw down around $50 billion. But what about from a technical perspective? For which company would Salesforce.com's products be a good fit?
Let's run through some possibilities.
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Considered by some to be the leading candidate, Microsoft buying Salesforce.com would be the biggest move yet by still relatively new CEO Satya Nadella.
A Salesforce-Microsoft union would create one of the most well-rounded cloud offerings on the market. Microsoft already has leading products in the software as a service (SaaS ) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) markets with its Office 365 and Azure offerings. Adding Salesforce to that mix would significantly distinguish itself from the IaaS market leader Amazon Web Services.
Microsoft and Salesforce are already getting cozy. Perhaps foreshadowing a greater relationship down the line, the two companies teamed up last year to integrate their offerings. That rubbed some Microsoft partners the wrong way though, so if Microsoft were to buy Salesforce, there may be pushback there.
Also complicating matters is that Microsoft and Salesforce go head-to-head in many products, including Salesforce's core CRM tool. Microsoft has Dynamics, which is a CRM tool as well, but market share and growth for that are dwarfed by Salesforce.
New Hampshire-based research firm Technology Business Review believes that one of the biggest advantages to Salesforce selling to Microsoft is that the SaaS company would get access to Microsoft's extensive partner network. "This acquisition could create the first successful partner cloud sales example," TBR notes. Salesforce having access to the extensive group of partners that are already selling Microsoft tools could be just what the company needs to finally turn a profit.
If there's a large acquisition rumored in the tech market, Oracle is usually mentioned among those who might be involved. Larry Ellison's company is looking to make a big splash in the cloud computing market after initially dismissing it. While the company has built up its own cloud offerings across the SaaS, IaaS and platform as a service (PaaS) markets, acquiring Salesforce would be a significant new product for the company's portfolio, and would instantly increase the company's credibility in the SaaS market.
A recent issuing of $10 billion in notes to free up cash has fueled this speculation. Also of note: Benioff started his career at Oracle, so selling his company to the database giant would be coming full circle.
Big Blue is looking to round out its cloud strategy across a number of areas, including IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. It's not afraid to make big moves in the cloud either: In 2013 IBM spent about $2 billion to buy IaaS cloud company SoftLayer. An acquisition of Salesforce would help the company round out its SaaS portfolio in an area (CRM) that it does not have a major foothold.
Salesforce is not a profitable company though, so some analysts question if IBM would take on the almost $50 billion market-cap company without getting an immediate profit stream.
This seems like a long-shot after CEO Bill McDermott this week vehemently denied that the company is exploring a takeover of Salesforce. A CRM platform would complement the company's current database and enterprise application offerings well though.
After announcing that the company would split into two an enterprise-focused division and another for hardware buying Salesforce would be a strong way to kick off a new business model. HP has a broad set of enterprise offerings, from public to private IaaS cloud services. Acquiring a leading SaaS vendor would help the company diversify its go-to-market cloud strategy.
Amazon or Google
Both are leaders in the IaaS market, which means from a product perspective, Salesforce would be a welcome diversification into the SaaS market. That would certainly help either one of these companies take on rival Mcirosoft, who already have a strong IaaS + SaaS story.