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The cloud message the Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff continues to preach seems to be paying off.

For its third quarter, Salesforce (CRM) reported earnings of 32 cents, a 14 percent increase over the year-ago quarter, on sales $429 million, a 30 percent increase over last year. Wall Street analysts had been expecting earnings of 31 cents on sales of $409.8 million. (Statement)

Looking ahead, the company said it expects fourth quarter revenue to be between $447 million and $449 million. For the fiscal year, the company is raising its 2011 revenue guidance to be between $1.647 billion and $1.649 billion. The company also initiated guidance for its fiscal year 2012, projecting $1.97 billion to $2 billion in revenue. In a statement, Benioff said:

After taking a decade to achieve our first billion dollar year in fiscal 2009, we believe that our strong growth this year will allow us to deliver approximately $2 billion in revenue in fiscal 2012, making Salesforce.com the first cloud computing company to achieve that milestone,” said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO Salesforce.com.

The company said that subscription and support revenues were $403 million, up 31 percent from a year ago, while professional services and other revenues were $26 million, a 10 percent increase.

Its customer count was 87,200 at the end of the quarter, up by 4,800. In the past four quarters, the company increased its customer count by about 28 percent, adding 19,300 net customers.

Shares of Salesforce were up more than 5 percent in regular trading, closing at $115.77. Shares were rising in after-hours trading.

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Source: Salesforce Beats Expectations, Raises Guidance as Cloud Grows