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Salesforce broadens platform with call center buy

The company acquires InStranet, a call center software provider, and plans a new offering for its software-as-a-service platform.

Salesforce.com is again expanding beyond its customer-relationship management roots with an acquisition designed to broaden its service and platform.

The company has acquired InStranet, a Chicago-based maker of call center software, for approximately $31.5 million. The buy gives Salesforce.com technology that it will use both for its internal customer service purposes, and for a new software-as-a-service offering expected to launch within 18 months, the company said.

InStranet makes so-called knowledge base management software, which can improve companies self-service support functions by making it easier for customers to find answers to common support questions.

Salesforce.com plans to integrate the software--which is not currently delivered as an online service--into its software-as-a-service platform. InStranet's 44 employees, based in Chicago and Paris, will join Salesforce.com. Alex Dayon, InStranet's CEO, will become a vice president of product management at Salesforce.com, according to company representative Bruce Francis.

InStranet, founded in 1999, brings some big name customers to Salesforce.com, including U.K.-based telecommunications provider Orange, T-Mobile, Comcast, and other companies. Salesforce.com expects that its new SaaS offering, to be called Salesforce.com Knowledge Base, will give it a technological edge over competitive offerings from Oracle and SAP, the company's main rivals.