At Dreamforce today, here in San Francisco, Salesforce.com announced a significant, and seemingly long overdue, enhancement to its SaaS offering. They announced Force.com for Facebook and Force.com for Amazon Web Services that are pre-integrations between their platform and these two other platforms. This new capability lets enterprise customers of their CRM solution (or any other AppExchange or Force.com) provide a public front-end to their instance of these services, directly from these services. The big deal with these additions is that they let you tie third party applications directly into your Force.com applications. In the case of the AWS integration, if you have applications or services built in Java, the LAMP stack or native C code, you can integrate them with your Force.com apps.
There is no Salesforce.com log-in required and there is no separate web tier integration you have to host and manage. For example, if a manufacturer used Salesforce.com to maintain its price list and order entry, it could simply build a public storefront in VisualForce and this storefront would be served up directly from Force.com. Previously, if you wanted to leverage Salesforce.com data on your web site you had to code integrations between the Salesforce.com application in question and your web apps; and of course carry the expense of hosting, sizing, and optimizing this infrastructure for performance.
We certainly don't see enterprises migrating their entire web presence to Force.com because of this, but directly providing this capability from the cloud will let enterprises eliminate a portion of their web infrastructure and free their developers from having to maintain and troubleshoot the integration code that made this possible before.
In today's recessionary climate, anything that helps streamline IT operations and eliminates costs is a good thing.
There are caveats to this, of course. You have to build these web front-ends in Apex or VisualForce, Salesforce.com's proprietary language and UI builder, respectively, and clients will have to understand the security, process and workflow implications of this change. But if you already have skills in their tools today – which is probably the case if you are part of their installed base – then the transition should pay dividends.