Force.com the best database developer environment?

Force.com the best database developer environment?

Summary: John Appleby has been checking out access to resources in database developer environments. He reckons Force.com stands head and shoulders above Google, Oracle, Microsoft, Workday, IBM and SAP. Here are his conclusions.

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John Appleby, whose day job is as business development director at SAP SI Bluefin Solutions specialising in HANA, test drove access to a bunch of the database development environments. It is something of a 'drive by' rather than a scientific or standardised form of test but he did what any other develoiper might do if looking for resources. He concludes:

The hard truth is that SAP is way behind even Oracle, who allow a free easy download of their in-memory database. And that's without taking into account that what the ecosystem needs is a ton of small developer shops producing amazing apps. Those guys don't have time or patience for the process and cost involved in becoming a SAP HANA developer.

Ouch! That's got to hurt.

So what did he have to say about the environments he walked through?

Microsoft

Grade: B. Microsoft have enabled me, got me up and running with their software quickly and I'm already developing on their platform.

Oracle

Grade: C. Oracle don't have the impressive platform that Microsoft have, but if you're a serious developer, that might be acceptable.

Force.com

Grade: A+. Developing an app with a cloud-based platform within 60 seconds. This is the bar to aspire to.

Workday

Grade: N/A (citing lack of openness)

IBM

Grade: B+. IBM clearly outdoes Microsoft because of the variety of options. Whatever option you want, IBM has a solution for you. Awesome.

Google

Grade: B. Fantastic potential and easy to get started if you know how, but a very unintuitive user interface.

SAP

Grade: D. Software availability is poor and web navigation confusing.

It is important to note that Appleby was not testing for quality or depth, but availability, ease of access to developer tools and resources. In comments he points out that he tried to imagine what today's developer, looking for platforms would likely do and kicked off with Google searches. Even so, this has to be a slap in the face for the vendor his business represents. This is not the first time that SAP has come under criticism for developer resource provisioning. It surprised me that Microsoft didn't fare better. They have for years been held up as the 'go to' vendor for easy access and a wealth of tools. The same goes for Oracle which has an incredibly loyal following. But then things change and the 'old' ways no longer matter in a world where digital natives want to get things done in real-time, not mess about to get off the starting blocks. 

Speaking to the SAP element, it took three years of hard fighting to get SAP to provide licenses in which core systems developers have confidence. In recent times, the company has been making HANA  developer resources free to access and making access to mobile development tools much simpler and free. None of this comes without some kind of back and forth with SAP yet that is clearly not enough. 

As Appleby discovered, free access is not the same as enablement. The surprise is that despite SAP's efforts to attract startups to develop on this platform, it has not apparently done the work needed to understand what developers need and which of the market competitors are setting the pace. 

I see this kind of problem repeated many times. Too often, vendors are so in love with their own technology that they fail to put their heads above the parapet to fully understand what best in class really means. It is about understanding what the outside developer needs and how they will go about finding those resources. In this context, brand and market penetration count for little. In Appleby's analysis of Force.com, he says:

It's all frighteningly easy. It is no wonder that there are so many Force.com developers.

Anyone listening from the other vendors named in his piece? I'm guessing they must have missed Dreamforce, from which I reported:

  • 800,000 developers in the community
  • On a good day 1,000 new developers sign up
  • No-one gets to attend events unless they bring code
  • 290 developer sessions at Dreamforce
  • Developers are contributing to the Salesforce.com core
  • 2.5 million apps on the AppExchange
  • Standing room only at the opening session with fire marshalls threatening to close them down.
  • Develop in whatever code you like (almost)
  • All code resources are free to develop
  • Opensource is actively encouraged
  • Citizen developers are building more apps than professional developers
  • No need to be a Salesforce.com customer to build code

As a side note, I ribbed Appleby for not including Apple: "So 2012," was his Skyped response. I guess that says it all. And we didn't discuss BlackBerry, which Joel Evans thinks could come back with a bang

Topics: Software Development, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce.com, SAP, Web development

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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9 comments
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  • SAP Grade D: ...generous!

    Working directly with SAP developers can obtain a HANA development environment running on Amazon Web Services. However, production applications are not allowed on AWS. And there's no market place to publish applications like Salesforce or Google have. There's no sample data to put HANA through it's paces. At the rate SAP is catering to grip developer relations it may take 10 to 15 years for HANA to turn into a platform. By that time Salesforce, Google and Microsoft for sure, will have run rings around SAP.
    clibou
    • Market place to publish applications

      Something other than SAP Store?
      https://store.sap.com/sap/cpa/ui/resources/store/html/Search.html?pcntry=US&sap-language=EN&facetVal=3&facetCode=2&_cp_id=id-1359393053168-0
      Welju Grouv
      • Corrected - SAP Store market place

        Thanks for sharing the SAP Store market place -- I had missed this. My experience SAP product managers from the prior era interject and push into the development process and want guide and control. By comparison Salesforce and Google app publishing process is transparent and easier. @SAP, please hire some experienced Developer Relations Engineers.
        clibou
  • considering that

    in this day and age oracle database still relies on a simple text file for its configuration, and any new application you install on the machine writes its config lines on top screwing evrything else, what would you expect?
    ForeverSPb
  • DB does not make an application

    John's exercise, while a good one to see which company is the best in terms of making their products/platforms accessible to developers, is inadequate as a proper evaluation from the standpoint of a developer/ISV.

    Following are important for a developer
    Development language support
    Integrated development environment
    Deployment containers (Java servlets, iOS, etc..)
    GUI tools

    For an ISV
    Everything that developers want +
    Distribution channel (like app stores...)
    Simple deployment into customer environment (Adding application to salesforce account, etc..)
    Cost-effective scaling
    Deployment operations support (think Heroku, Force, Google App Engine, Rightscale on Amazon, Azure)

    There is a reason some of the legacy vendors are woeful. It comes down to mindset, culture and the DNA. It is downright impossible for a sales focused company to think like a true developer oriented technology company such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft...

    In addition, most developers/ISVs and especially cloud ISVs leverage open source alternatives such as mongoDB, voltDB, Hadoop, mySQL as opposed to Sybase/Oracle/SQL Server/DB2
    bsimpson69
    • Sometimes, DB can be everything they need.

      Accessibility to developers, can be adequate as a proper evaluation from the standpoint of citizen developers/non IT guys who want to make something that make their lives a little bit easier.
      Jesse Jang
  • Number of App Exchange Apps

    The number you quote for AppExchange apps is way too big.

    Taken from the App Exchange home page: http://appexchange.salesforce.com/ There are officially 1773 apps on app exchange.

    I'm not sure where you got the 2.5 million apps from. If you look at the Salesforce.com web site at the Force.com platform information page, we state 100k custom apps. http://www.salesforce.com/eu/force/overview/#more

    Great article, though!
    pchittum
  • Force.com Comparisons

    This is lazy journalism. 'Databases' do not equal 'development platforms'. Force.com is a true Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), because it comes with prebuilt business logic. In this context Heroku, Google App Engine and Microsoft Windows Azure are fake clouds - just Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) - with a few operational IT features added. Salesforce.com do a vey bad job in marketing Force.com and try to lock ISVs into managed code outcomes, which destroys the flexibility given to Salesforce CRM customers or those customers who but Force.com Enterprise Edition. Force.com compares more to wannabee true PaaS environments: LongJump, Rollbase, Orangescape, VerticaLive, .... mostly small players. The nearest thing Microsoft have to Force.com is their XRM offering.

    Force.com is powerful for non-tech, clicks-based developers, but it's getting long in the tooth. Most CIOs and CTOs are ignorant of what a true PaaS is - and it will be a smart startup who challenges Force.com - not the dinosaurs, who want to preserve the layers and layers of busy-doing-nothing types that pervade the grey, boring IT industry at large.
    Being Guided
  • Anyone looking into Force.com should also look at the OutSystems Platform

    If you are considering Force.com as a PaaS solution, you should also consider the OutSystems Platform.

    Both OutSystems Platform and Force.com are typical examples of ‘high productivity’ development tools; they abstract away the complexity of conventional (third generation or 3GL) computer code, generating much of the routine parts of an application from high-level declarative statements, leaving the developer free to concentrate on the high-value business logic.

    For more details, take a look at this report from Bloor Research that compares the two here:
    http://www.bloorresearch.com/research/incomparison/outsystems-platform-force-com/
    Mario Andre Araujo