Force.com the best database developer environment?

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.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

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?


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


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


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


Grade: N/A (citing lack of openness)


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


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


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

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