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When Salesforce announced its Wave analytics platform with a splash at Dreamforce, it wasn't even available. Critics said it cost too much or that even after two years of development, it was too little too late.

Some analysts, like Boris Evelson at Forrester Research, praised it for its "seamless integration" and agile NoSQL DBMS. "But," he added in his blog, "while we feel that Wave is a cool product for specific use cases ... there's lot of room for improvement before Wave can take its place among general purpose large enterprise BI platforms."

"The UI is there, but can it really leverage big data? Does it matter?," asked CMSWire writer Virginia Backaitis. She quoted several industry sources who offered mixed reviews.

Quieter Launch


A quieter, formal launch came about two weeks later. Then big pilot clients like GE Capital and EMC signed up. And now at the 100-day mark, Salesforce officials claim Wave is generating strong interest among its existing customers.

Salesforce is planning its first product update in mid-February and is already working on additional products to fill out its Analytics Cloud.

"We're on target. Our first 100 days have seen amazing customer success," said Anna Rosenman, director of product marketing for the Salesforce Analytics Cloud. "We're two years and 100 days old and I think we've had tremendous momentum."

While she wouldn't disclose how many new customers were signing up, she told CMSWire that there's a ripple effect going on. For example, GE Capital's success with the product drew the interest of GE Aviation, which is now an Analytics Cloud customer.

"Obviously, we had a lot of pilot customers close," said Rosenman. "But we've also had customers like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the publisher of Curious George, sign up. All they saw was a demo and they said 'This is great'."

What Is This?

She admitted things could have gone more smoothly at Dreamforce, particularly in differentiating the product for others in the increasingly crowded BI-analytics field.

"Initially, when Salesforce announced that this is for everyone and it's mobile and it's a platform, a lot of those messages had been used in the past. They were nothing new when it comes to the BI space or analytics space," she said. As a result, potential customers were confused about whether Wave was just a discovery tool or something "you could plop on top" of a BI platform.

"That was something I don't think we expected -- that we would have to do a little more education about how broad the capabilities are of the Analytics Cloud," said Rosenman. A key was to show how Wave fits into the new Salesforce commitment to making itself into a customer success platform.

"We started with sales, service, platform, marketing -- it's really going around the entire front office portion of the business," she said. "And I think analytics really closed the loop. Ultimately, customer success is how you engage the front office, but also pulling some of that information from the back office."

Does it cost too much? The administrative tools of Wave, called Builder, cost $250 a month per seat. Even the version for business users, called Explorer, costs $125. Add to that a basic license of $40,000, which is in addition to any other site licenses paid by existing Salesforce customers. In all, Wave costs more than Salesforce charges for its service and sales products together, though it's likely Salesforce offers deep discounts from the list price for big customers.

What's the Alternative?

Rosenman shrugged off the cost concerns, noting it's far cheaper for customers to use Wave than for companies to build their own data centers, which requires hundreds of thousands of dollars for hardware, software and technical support -- not to mention a place to put them all.

On top of the on-premises costs, companies would then have to create a process to develop the apps needed by line-of-business users. That typically involves filling out a request to the CIO and waiting weeks or months for the application.

"You shouldn't have to log a ticket to get visibility into your pipeline," said Rosenman. "You shouldn't have to log a ticket to get a view of your entire customer base. You should be able to do all of that on your own."

To be sure, as Evelson sagely noted back in October, there's work ahead and Rosenman is well aware. She won't list the upgrades that will be announced in February or the additional products under development to complement Wave, but hinted they will amplify the speed with which users can acquire results.

"We're just pushing really hard on this product," she said. "Our teams are working non-stop because we want to keep the momentum going."

Title image by Barry Tuck/Shutterstock.