Salesforce.com takes to open platform

Hosted software vendor announces new US$212 million acquisition and launches new platform offerings, which company executives say mark its path to becoming a platform company.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

SAN FRANCISCO--Salesforce.com has unveiled five new enterprise cloud platform services as well as plans to acquire a cloud app platform, which company executives say signal its move to becoming a platform company.

At its Dreamforce conference here Wednesday, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor launched new cloud platform services--Appforce, Siteforce, VMforce, ISVforce and Heroku. These offerings are aimed at helping its customers build apps for a new cloud architecture that is now driven by social media computing, said George Hu, executive vice president of platform marketing at Salesforce.com.

"Pre-cloud platforms are on a path to nowhere," Hu said, adding that users now increasingly demand enterprise support for apps on mobile and social platforms, including iPad, Android, Twitter and Facebook.

Traditional application platforms make it impossible for IT to catch up and meet this demand, he said. With such architecture, he noted that it would take days to build an app, weeks to deploy the infrastructure, and months to complete the app.

The need to address this gap led to Force.com 2, Salesforce.com's cloud platform, which encompasses the five new services and is the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) designed to support the mobile social computing era, he said.

The announcement also marks Salesforce.com's path to becoming a platform company, Hu declared.

Appforce is touted to allow developers to more quickly and easily deliver collaborative apps for the various departments within an enterprise, while Siteforce is designed to permit non-IT, business users to build Web sites without knowledge of codes. The site design tool features drag-and-drop capabilities and point-and-click editing, Hu said.

Targeted at independent software vendors (ISVs), ISVforce will enable developers to build multi-tenant cloud apps more swiftly and features a range of functions such as trials and provisioning, automatic upgrade capabilities and real-time monitoring of customer usage and adoption.

The result of a partnership with VMware, VMforce enables Java developers to build apps for the cloud, mobile and social platforms.

US$212 million Ruby buy
Salesforce.com on Wednesday also announced its intentions to acquire Heroku in a deal estimated to be worth US$212 million in cash and expected to be completed by end-January 2011. Heroku provides a cloud application platform for apps built on the Ruby programming language.

Elaborating on the acquisition, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said the company needed Heroku to open up its platform, which its customers had said was "too proprietary". Salesforce.com has its own development language, Apex, which is based on Java.

Benioff said: "We've been somewhat myopic. We haven't listened closely enough to our customers [who said] 'Your platform is too proprietary. It needs to open up'." The company then looked at Ruby and Ruby on Rails, an open source framework for developing Ruby apps, to help achieve more platform openness, he said.

He added that Ruby is the language for building apps in a cloud computing era that is now mobile, social and real-time.

Over 105,000 Ruby apps currently run on Heroku and over 2,600 new Ruby apps were created last week. There are currently over 1 million Ruby developers and Gartner predicts this number will reach 4 million by 2013.

Eileen Yu of ZDNet Asia reported from Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, USA.

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