While other cloud providers assured customers with promises and remedies written in service level agreements, Salesforce.com users can vote with their feet, according to the vendor's platform intelligence director Peter Coffee.
In Sydney this week to "debunk the myths around cloud computing", Coffee criticised service level agreements for being "written by lawyers to be consumed by accountants".
He declined to disclose details of Salesforce.com's SLAs, explaining that those were formulated in confidential discussions with individual customers.
Rather than offer financial remedies that may affect pricing, Salesforce.com was content to leave the business of risk mitigation to insurance providers.
Coffee likened Salesforce.com's service provision to air travel, observing that customers preferred to buy air tickets at the lowest possible price and separately purchase travel insurance, if needed.
However, he invited "any customer that wants something not on our price list to ask, and a conversation will take place".
Coffee highlighted the platform-as-a-service provider's public status log, asserting that its procedures and technology meant that customers faced "negligible" risk of losing hosted data.
Dissatisfied customers could terminate their relationship with Salesforce.com, upon which they would receive their data on tape within 30 days, and have all traces their data from the cloud within 90 days.
"We have enormous incentive to stay up," he said, referring to the publicity that any downtime would attract. "Our life is on the line."
The unicorn delusion
Coffee's visit to Australia followed a VMware customer forum last month and recent announcements of infrastructure-as-a-service offerings from Optus and Telstra.
He criticised the term "private cloud", arguing that applying it to data centre modernisation merely confused customers.
And while virtualisation was a useful stepping stone to the cloud, Coffee warned that a "museum of past software practices wrapped in a hypervisor isn't going to cut it".
"Calling a virtualised data centre a private cloud is like wrapping up a paper towel, putting it on a horse and calling it a unicorn," he said. "I'm sorry, but it's not a unicorn - it's a horse."
Salesforce.com's vision of Cloud 2.0 was no longer about reducing cost and increasing efficiency, but about new, collaborative ways of dynamically developing applications.
The company had data centres in the U.S. and Singapore, and planned to build facilities in Japan and the UK during the next two years.
While regulators like the Monetary Authority of Singapore have discouraged banks from computing in the cloud, Coffee said some customers were able to get around those restrictions by hosting more sensitive parts of their data locally.
He said certain attributes like the physical location of data would cease to matter as the legislation caught up with technology.
"It seems clear to me that technology is moving faster than the law and the law will, in time, catch up. Lawyers will get rich off this for many years to come, because it is a very complex area."
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