Salesforce.com, the world's leading provider of business management applications through the internet, today marks its first decade in business with a challenge to grow the adoption of a technology market segment it helped establish - software-as-a-service (SaaS) - on the mainland and other emerging markets during the economic crisis. 'We're humbled by how far the industry has come over the past 10 years,' said Marc Benioff, the chairman and chief executive at United States-based Salesforce.com. 'We look forward to seeing where our customers lead us.' Salesforce.com, which supplies on-demand customer relationship management systems through the internet to more than 55,400 companies and 1.5 million subscribers worldwide, is currently ahead of US rival NetSuite in obtaining significant SaaS market share on the mainland. Both companies are helping foster the fast-growing industry trend called 'cloud computing', which gives online corporate subscribers a broad range of low-cost technology services and software - including various SaaS enterprise programs, storage, processing systems management, application-development tools and security - from large-scale data centres run by vendors or other service providers. 'Cloud computing is the right model for tough economic times no matter what your industry is,' said Andrew Knott, Salesforce.com's vice-president for Asia-Pacific marketing. He said 74 per cent of mainland companies considered SaaS a priority, based on a survey by Forrester Research. Market analyst firm Ovum offers a frame of reference. 'Consider cloud computing as like staying in a hotel, outsourcing as like renting a house, and your own in-house information technology function as like owning a home,' Ovum said. 'Some people will prefer the stability of the family home, others the flexibility of a rented house and others the excitement and convenience of a hotel - be it budget or luxury, long or short term.' Despite a general weakening of demand for information technology products and services caused by the economic downturn, cloud computing proponents are gaining more customers than before. 'There are more than 1,000 worldwide SaaS providers and more than US$33 billion has been invested in these providers globally,' said Robert Mahowald, a director of research at International Data Corp. 'SaaS services have benefited by the perception that they are tactical fixes, which allow for relatively easy expansion during hard times.' Salesforce.com, which was founded in 1999 and posted US$1 billion in revenue last year, currently represents the most successful foreign SaaS management software provider on the mainland.