At this year’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, Salesforce announced a strategic partnership with Hewlett-Packard. Under the terms of that agreement, the two companies will collaborate on a “Salesforce Superpod,” a dedicated cloud instance running on HP hardware; the target audience is large enterprises with specialized needs. At first glance, that alliance seems antithetical to the entire notion of cloud computing. After all, the point of the “cloud” is that services are delivered via the Web, cutting out the need for specialized hardware. Indeed, Salesforce has spent the past several years selling its services as the ultimate in “no software, no hardware” convenience. So what’s the point of touting how Salesforce’s cloud offerings can now run on an HP backend? As with so many things in life, it all comes down to money. HP is a massive Salesforce customer. HP needs to sell hardware to businesses, especially since the PC market—its traditional bread and butter—is in marked decline thanks to the enduring popularity of tablets and smartphones. By selling converged-infrastructure “Superpods” loaded with Salesforce’s software to enterprises, HP can potentially open up a new line of business. Jillian Mirandi and Kelsey Mason, analysts with Technology Business Research, also suggested that the HP alliance would help Salesforce compete against those IT firms with hybrid offerings. “The partnership supports’s long-term competitive positioning against vendors that offer a hybrid, on-premise option such as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM,” they wrote in a recent research note. “While is creating new revenue opportunities for itself, the costs associated with integration and marketing these new offerings will drive an increase in operating expenses in the coming months.” For its part, Salesforce is arguing that a “Superpod” can be customized for an individual company’s use in ways that its public cloud cannot, and that dedicated hardware could ease some of the regulatory concerns that some companies have about jumping to the cloud. Such a converged platform might not be in the spirit of what Salesforce has traditionally sold, but it’s probably necessary in this era of hybrid and private clouds.   Image: Alexander Kirch/