Salesforce Focuses on Developers

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2007-09-17 Print this article Print
 is hosting its Dreamforce user conference Sept. 16-19, with a strong focus on developers and software as a service. The companys vice president of developer relations, Adam Gross, sat down at Salesforces headquarters in San Francisco with eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft in August to discuss what has given the company its head start in the SAAS arena as well as the companys growing developer focus. How do you maintain your lead and your uniqueness in this arena of software as a service?
Well, let me answer that in part by telling you what my responsibilities are and then I can speak to that from my perspective.
Im responsible for developer relations. That means everything in terms of developer-based activities for Salesforce, which in and of itself is a relatively new phenomenon for the company. Salesforce started off focused on CRM [customer relationship management], and the folks around here are really focused on serving those customers. My job is to make our technology popular and successful to all the developers out there that are building enterprise business applications. And its funny in that Ive had a little bit of the opposite problem from the developer relations point of view because were coming out with so much new stuff all the time that keeping developers up to speed with all the technology frankly is a new challenge. And I think what that speaks to is the kind of waves of on-demand, and people get the technical evolution of on-demand technologies in general. I think the first one for us was the idea of multitenancy—the idea that theres one copy of your service. Theres one copy of Google. Im not using a different version of Google than the next person is. And you shouldnt have to worry about it when Google introduces a new feature. It should just show up. And thats our expectation of online services, and thats our expectation of on-demand services. Salesforce continues to innovate to stay a step ahead of the growing competition. Click here to read more. Frankly theres still a debate going on in the industry, which is kind of fascinating unto itself, about whether or not multitenancy is the way to go. And some vendors are out there quite aggressively saying that multitenancy isnt necessary, which kind of reminds me of the folks who were out there when the Mac came out saying all we needed was command line, no mouse, etc. It kind of feels like that to me. Its going to happen; its just a matter of when. One of the interesting things about Microsoft and [Microsoft Chief Software Architect] Ray Ozzies presentation at their financial analysts meeting [in July] is Microsofts on the multitenancy bus. They decided about a year ago after having a bunch of different strategies that, "Were going multitenancy, thats our strategy with regard to these applications." And that sets them apart from a lot of the other vendors and puts them in our camp in terms of the technology. But really, multitenancy is just kind of the first step. So the second wave was a lot of the core integration features, and thats really been my focus. A lot of my focus in the company over the last couple of years has been our Web services API. That speaks to one of the very fascinating trends for me, having been in the integration space before I came to Salesforce, and that is the merger of SOA [service-oriented architecture] and Web application technologies, and how theyve really complemented themselves and accelerated each other in ways I dont think that any of us anticipated. And our API that we launched in 2003—full SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol], Web services, WS-I 1.1 [Web Services Interoperability] compliant—this is like SOA-by-the-book. Thats now responsible for over 50 percent of all the activity we do as a company. So if you were to sit in front of the server rooms of our data infrastructure and count the transactions as theyre coming in, youd see more than half the requests werent Web requests from Web browsers; theyd be SOAP requests over XML. So thats the second phase of the on-demand revolution. Now the interesting thing is for us that was 2003; multitenancy was 1999-2000. But for most of the vendors, even acknowledging multitenancy is a big deal. So when you think about it in terms of how we stay ahead, how do we keep our lead, and whats our vision for on-demand, the reality is that we still feel like were playing nine or 10 innings in front of these guys. And thats because weve been very focused on innovating and weve been able to increase the frequency with which we release and the amount of stuff we release. We rolled out our summer 07 release of our service to our 30,000-plus customers, and that was the third major release for us this year. So we have a very rapid pace of innovation. Thats a long answer to a simple question. But for all the talk, theres not necessarily as much technology action happening around the other vendors. Theyre just beginning to get on that slope, which is great. And we think that at some point theyll reach the 2003 level of Salesforce, which is where they are with their APIs. And at some point theyll reach the 2007 level of Salesforce, which is where we are with our platform technology. But that is some way off. I think if I were to sit Ray Ozzie down and show him what Ive got in summer 07, I honestly think as a technologist hed be pretty damn impressed. And I think hed say: "Wow, its going to be a long time before we can turn this ship to understand what we need to do." Page 2: Salesforce Focuses on Developers

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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