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Microsoft, Salesforce Said to Be Discussing Cloud Partnership

Microsoft Corp. and Inc. are close to an agreement that will enable customers of Microsoft’s cloud computing service to use Salesforce’s customer management programs, said people familiar with the talks, signaling a thaw between two longtime rivals.

The partnership will make Salesforce’s program available on Microsoft’s Azure service, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are confidential. They’re also talking about integrating data from Salesforce products into Microsoft’s Office programs, the people said.

An agreement would mark a shift in what has sometimes been a fractious relationship between the two companies. In 2010, Microsoft sued Salesforce for patent infringement, setting off a countersuit before the companies settled later that year. Microsoft in 2005 also announced plans to “give Salesforce a very effective run for their money” with a competing product and in 2010 ran an anti-Salesforce ad campaign with the tagline “Don’t Get Forced.”

Microsoft, under new Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, has been looking to bolster the Redmond, Washington-based company’s Internet-based cloud software and corporate programs. Software makers are looking for more ways to make applications, even from rivals, work together as customers want to be able to use multiple different products and share information across them.

Jane Hynes, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Salesforce, and Laurie Smith DeJong, a spokeswoman for Microsoft, declined to comment yesterday.

Before taking the CEO job in February, Nadella was known for his outreach to longtime Microsoft rivals. He played a key role last year in an agreement that brought Oracle Corp.’s database to Azure.

Salesforce last year also cast aside its competition with Oracle and signed a nine-year pact to buy Oracle hardware and software to power its applications.

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