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3 Ways Marc Benioff's AppExchange Transformed the Cloud Ten years later, the app powerhouse Benioff built is still changing the game for partners and customers.

By Christopher Cabrera Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ten years ago, last month, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his team launched the Salesforce AppExchange. At the time, Benioff noted that, "The iPod is to the iTunes Music Store what AppExchange is to the platform."

Related: Enterprise Apps Are Less Glitter but More Gold for Developers

A combination of hardware and software, the AppExchange gave new market entrants the foundation they needed to accelerate application development, time to market, awareness and, ultimately, sales.

The platform's launch not only played a hugely significant role in the success of my own company, Xactly, but completely changed the enterprise cloud technology landscape in these three important ways:

1. Lowering the barrier to entry for new applications in the enterprise

The launch of the AppExchange lowered the barrier of entry for new market players to build and launch applications. Previously, companies (including mine) had to raise funds to cover the price of the hardware and other technologies needed to support their applications -- often before development could even really begin.

This was not only costly, but also time consuming. The AppExchange helped introduce the idea of "rent" in the cloud. New entrants could utilize the strong hardware and security foundation that Salesforce had built for the AppExchange as their foundation. This significantly reduced the cost, time and effort to get new applications on to the market, and paved the way for countless new cloud players in the enterprise. Not to mention that it gave newcomers an automatic marketing channel.

2. Creating 'window shopping' (and buying) for apps

What department stores did for retail, the AppExchange did for enterprise applications. The AppExchange created a destination where customers could essentially "window shop" for applications. Not only were applications pre-vetted from a technology standpoint, they featured customer ratings and reviews. Think of the important role reviews play when you research and select consumer products, such as TVs.

AppExchange brought the same concept to the enterprise. It was transformational in the industry because it enabled customers to quickly and confidently find select applications they would have otherwise spent hours researching -- if they even knew they existed.

Related: Seven Essential Apps for Your Sales Team

3. Connecting partner ecosystems

As noted, all applications that make it on to the AppExchange are pre-vetted and tooled to work seamlessly together. This has made it easy for customers to connect the technologies they need to meet key business objectives -- such as supercharging their sales organizations.

For example, we have a number of customers who have leveraged the AppExchange to buy and integrate sales applications such as Salesforce for CRM, Xactly for sales performance management and SteelBrick for configure, price and quote. For the first time, these linked applications offer organizations a clear view into their own customers, and data that ranges from the initial point of contact through to the final sale and payment.

This kind of insight has been game changing. And, today, the idea of an "application store" has become mainstream. Whether you are an Apple or Android disciple, its apps store may be one of the places you visit most on your mobile device -- to download a new game, social application or music.

In the enterprise, application, stores or platforms have become commonplace as well and should be a first destination for anyone considering building an enterprise app. But, 10 years ago, the AppExchange was a new and novel idea that helped create new revenue streams for existing players in the market, laid the foundation for countless newcomers and accelerated the adoption of cloud technologies in the enterprise. As someone who has been part of the journey since the beginning -- Xactly was one of the first applications to launch on the AppExchange -- it has been an exciting ride. We can't wait to see what the next decade brings.

Related: 15 Tools to Create Automation in Your Small Business

Happy Birthday, AppExchange! And congrats to the Salesforce team!

Christopher Cabrera

Entrepreneur, Founder and CEO, Xactly

Christopher W. Cabrera, founder and CEO of Xactly Corporation, is a noted industry expert in issues relating to sales performance management, sales compensation and enterprise and on-demand/software-as-a-service delivery models. He was named the 2011 “Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the USC Marshall School of Business. Cabrera is the author of Game the Plan (River Grove Books, 2014) and co-author of Xactly Sales Compensation for Dummies (Wiley Publishing, 2006).

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