Growing Beyond CRM
The point is not a small one to Salesforces way of thinking. The company is "absolutely" going down the path of eliminating infrastructure needs for developers. Collins explains it this way: to develop a simple expense management application, for example, a developer needs to utilize a database, an application server, an operating system and a development environmentand all the pieces on the software and hardware side of the equation need to be brought together.That means users actually leverage Oracles database, which Salesforces development environment sits on, and Salesforces application server, Web server and development environment. The goal, it would seem, is to grow Salesforce beyond its CRM roots. "They dont want to be isolated," said Saugatucks West. "They want to be Salesforce plus ERP, with all that capability based around their architecture. They want to be the platform of the futurethe Internet platform for the future. Its a grandiose vision but they have a fairly good chance of getting there." The key for Salesforceor any software company introducing a new platformis to build an ecosystem that actually utilizes the language and development environment. To the end, Salesforce also plans to announce Oct. 9 its AppEchange Incubators, centers designed to help developers who rent cube space for $20,000 a pop create ERP components on the Apex platform, which can be sold on the AppExchange marketplace. The first center will be in Silicon Valley, in the old Siebel building. Others will follow in different locations around the world. "We have 20,000 developers now," said Collins. "We envision millions." Developers will have to wait just a bit before jumping on board. The Apex platform will be available as part of Salesforce.coms Winter Release; the Apex language will be available in 2007. Some customers, like Jay Contreras, president of Crimson Worldwide, a company that uses both Salesforce.com and its AppExchange partner Intaacts software, stands behind the Apex effort. "What they have done is allow the user and their customers to take [Salesforce] beyond the CRM perspective," said Contreras, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Click here to read about Salesforce.coms search for acquisitions. "Theyre allowing users to go in and customize, to build databases that are customized for their company." Kory Kimball, vice president of client services at WebTrend and a Salesforce.com customer, is a bit less enthusiastic about the concept of a new development language from Salesforce. "What is the purpose? I am a big fan of the company, but we have been successful building extensions to Salesforce applications using Java and .Net technology," said Kimball, in Portland, Ore. "You already can develop on-demand applications. I would have to understand it better before I train my people on something new." Saugatucks West, however, believes Salesforce is on to something with Apex. "If its based on Java and its simple, you have the appeal of all those objects on AppExchange," he said. "Programming doesnt mean you have to start from scratch. You can leverage the work of other people. Its like the Wiki approach to development; youll have all these different patternscertain things to express four or five ideaswith people taking different directions to do different things." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.
"With Apex, this is not another SQL Server," said Collins. "This is a SQL service, and an on-demand operating system. So all the components that are key pieces of infrastructure that enable custom application development, we have delivered on demand."