Salesforce is putting a new customer data platform, Genie, at the heart of its software to deliver real-time access to customer information across the enterprise.
“Genie is the world’s first real time CRM,” said chief product officer David Schmaier on the eve of the vendor's Dreamforce 2022 customer conference. “It’s a high-speed, hyper-scalar data lake infrastructure that powers all of Salesforce’s applications.”
Running on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s public cloud, the new customer data platform (CDP) uses the same metadata as the rest of the Salesforce platform, and connects with the company’s Flow automation tools and Einstein AI-powered recommendation engine, enabling them to operate with real-time data too.
For Sheryl Kingstone, VP for customer experience and commerce at 451 Research, Genie could be a solution to the business problem of creating unified customer profiles based on a single source of truth, finally getting rid of customer data siloes across every department, business unit, and all the different regions, she says.
It’s been a challenge for Salesforce to get to the point where it can combine its rich legacy of transactional data with more modern sources of real-time data, according to Kingstone.
“They were doing it in stages,” she said. “Salesforce acquired MuleSoft to solve app integration, but it didn’t solve the data integration problem. Einstein solved some of the architectural shifts to bring the data together, but it still was a baby step.”
A bigger step toward solving the data integration problem, she said, came with Salesforce’s 2020 acquisition of personalisation software vendor Evergage, which enabled it to rethink the data architecture of its applications from the ground up.
It’s not just about Salesforce applications, though: Genie also opens a gateway to Snowflake’s data cloud; enables Amazon’s SageMaker AI models to interact with Salesforce data in much the same way as its own Einstein models; and through Salesforce AppExchange will allow third-party developers to create apps that exploit its capabilities. Already, 18 partners have created apps for the Genie platform, Salesforce said.
All this gives Genie the power to release customer data trapped in the marketing department, according to Liz Miller, VP and principal analyst at Constellation Research.
“For the most part, CDPs are sold as marketing toys that address marketing things, but what we have here is a unified data model that is now a shared service across the stack,” said Miller.
Better yet, Genie’s open approach means it’s unlikely to interfere with CIOs’ own data lake strategies, she said.
“It might not be as sexy as big new unveils, but it can deliver and is real, which I think the market craves after decades of chasing lofty terms like ‘personalisation,’” said Miller. “It makes Customer360 usable instead of it being an aspirational model of what we want to achieve.”
As 451’s Kingstone surmised, the new customer data platform has its roots in Salesforce’s 2020 acquisition of Evergage, which had built a personalisation engine (later rebranded as Salesforce Interaction Studio) on top of its own CDP.
Genie has parts of that Evergage CDP at its heart, according to Patrick Stokes, general manager for Salesforce Platform.
“It was originally constructed with quite a bit of the lake house type of capability that Evergage brought to bear,” he said. “We’ve since updated that pretty significantly to implement Apache Iceberg.”
Iceberg, an open-source table format originally developed at Netflix, is key to Genie’s openness. It enables the efficient use of SQL for big data analytics, and is supported by data lake engines including Snowflake, Dremio and Spark.
Although Snowflake is Salesforce’s marquee partner for data sharing with Genie, the door is open to anyone who wants to implement Iceberg, whether they’re a software vendor or an end user, Stokes said.
The case for real-time data
Genie officially goes live on September 20, the opening day of Dreamforce, but behind the scenes, hundreds of enterprises are already using it to personalise customer interactions, Stokes said.
Among them are L’Oréal, which is interconnecting online and offline shopping experiences with Salesforce; Formula 1, which is using it to connect with motor racing fans; and Ford, using it to provide a single source of truth all the way from purchase through onboarding of connected services to ongoing maintenance of its vehicles.
Ford can use Genie for everything from scheduling periodic service to delivering urgent roadside assistance, he said.
However, not everyone will benefit from the new real-time capabilities, Stokes said, but there are situations where the difference between live and day-old data can be critical.
A key feature of Genie is that data — whether clinical, environmental or transactional — isn’t just ingested in real time: “We have the ability to stream all of that in in real time and make what we call calculated insights in real time,” he said.
“In the healthcare industry, they’re trying to keep their customers alive. Operating off batch data can literally be life or death for some.” Fraud prevention applications will also benefit from Genie’s real-time capabilities, he said.