Salesforce.com's Apex: The morning tally

Now that salesforce.com’s Apex programming language and platform has come out from behind the curtain, and the critiques are coming in.
Written by Dan Farber, Inactive

Now that salesforce.com’s Apex programming language and platform has come out from behind the curtain, and the critiques are coming in. Prior to the open keynote at Dreamforce conference Moscone West in San Francisco this morning, I talked to Hummer Winblad VC Mark Gorenberg, who hailed Apex as the most significant announcement since Sybase announced stored procedures. In effect, Gorenberg said, stored procedures led to the change from mainframe to client/server computing. “Apex will be the big tsunami for a new platform for applications,” he concluded. Disclosure: Hummer Winblad has investments in five companies that are participating in AppExchange. 

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff just got on stage, welcoming the crowd and introducing new board member, former eBay COO Maynard Webb, who preached the salesforce.com gospel.


As Benioff was heading on stage, I received an email from Zach Nelson, CEO of salesforce.com competitor NetSuite, who took issue with the salesforce.com claim that it is creating the world's first on-demand pogramming language and platform. “It's a shameless lie. We introduced SuiteScript, the first on-demand programming language, six months ago, and its predecessor (NetSuite Custom Code) over a year ago,” Nelson said.

In a previous email to me, Nelson wrote: "I don't want to get into an argument about whose customization approach is better--both are good (although we like a non-proprietary, pure JavaScript approach).  But I do want to clarify which SaaS vendor was the first to include the ability to add custom code to an on-demand application.  In March 2005, NetSuite announced the ability to use JavaScript to customize client-side transactions. In April 2006, NetSuite introduced SuiteScript, allowing for complex customization of server-side transactional business processes.  And on October 24, we will add new capabilities that take the ability to add custom code to SaaS applications where it has never gone before."

Nelson thinks that salesforce.com has NetSuite envy. "They know that the business application that owns the transaction will be winner in the SaaS market, and salesforce.com's soft underbelly is that they can never add a transaction engine to their data model.  Salesforce.com is relegated to being the on-demand Siebel to NetSuite's on-demand SAP," Nelson wrote. He went on to say that it took NetSuite eight years to build a complete, integrated ERP application to run a mid-sized business. Of course, NetSuite envies the kind of growth and traction salesforce.com continues to have.

I talked to Adam Gross, vice president of developer marketing at salesforce.com, about the rollout of the Apex programming language. It goes into beta in 2007 and no idea when it will be out of beta. It looks like NetSuite has some runway to show what it can do with its technology compared to Apex.

I'll follow up with some comments from salesforce.com's executives on Nelson's comments. More to come...

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