Benioff Kneels at the Altar of Cloud Computing

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For founder and CEO Marc Benioff, cloud computing isn't just an important technology model upon which he founded his company, but rather something that merits religious devotion.

"Cloud computing is a sacred thing," Benioff said on Wednesday at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, where he participated in a panel discussion moderated by conference co-chairman Tim O'Reilly.

His comments were part of a spirited defense of cloud computing that he articulated, arguing that the technology model has opened the door for many start-ups that have developed valuable products and services without the need to spend massive amounts of money on infrastructure.

Because, in his view, cloud computing simplifies and lowers the cost to access computing resources, it has had a "democratizing" effect on innovation in the IT industry, and this has to be protected from efforts by vendors to lock customers into their hosted platforms and drive prices up, he said.

As is his custom, he took a few shots at his former boss Larry Ellison, Oracle's CEO, whose views on cloud computing Benioff calls misguided.

Fellow panelists Andy Jassy, senior vice president at Amazon Web Services and Amazon Infrastructure, and Paul Maritz, VMware's CEO, also expressed support for keeping cloud computing platforms open and free of components that tie developers and customers to them.

"You don't want any element to become a point of control," Maritz said.

Jassy said that Amazon designed its hosted infrastructure and application development services from the start in a way that allows customers and developers to easily take their applications and data to another provider if they so choose.

"We want to earn their business every day, every week, every month," Jassy said.

The panelists agreed that as more and more vendors develop cloud offerings, the meaning of the term is getting diluted and used for technology that doesn't embody the openness and ease of use that they believe are essential to cloud services.

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