SAN FRANCISCO-What Salesforce.com has done for enterprise sales professionals with its Sales Cloud applications and for custom business application developers with its Force.com platform it will now try to do for the burgeoning community of enterprise Java software developers.
Salesforce has teamed up with VMware to create VMforce, a secure, highly scalable cloud development platform based on Spring Java framework, which is owned by VMware's SpringSource division and is reputedly used by more than 2 million of the world's 6 million Java developers. VMforce will also include VMware's vCloud technology, which is designed to simplify the management and performance of multiple enterprise applications on the VMware vSphere cloud operating environment.
VMforce will give developers access to Salesforce's Force.com platform services, including the database, workflow management, Chatter social collaboration platform, search and application performance analytics.
The IT industry is in the midst of another major technology change in which enterprise applications are moving into the cloud to serve a new generation of highly mobile devices, which now includes the latest tablet computers, such as the Apple iPad, along with all the many Web-connected smartphones and mobile computers, said Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.
Benioff said that the Facebook social collaboration application is the new paradigm for application development and that from now on most new and innovative enterprise applications will have social and collaborative features to serve the needs of enterprise workgroups.
Denis Pombriant, principal analyst with Beagle Research, which specializes in cloud computing and customer relationship management market analysis, said VMforce will likely appeal to a lot of enterprises that would like to have access to a cost-efficient way of moving Java applications to the cloud.
"There is a heck of a lot of legacy code-Java code-good code, I think, that's keeping a lot of organizations from migrating to cloud computing in a more aggressive way. In other words, the cost of doing something about these legacy applications can be quite high," Pombriant said.
VMforce "provides a very logical, inexpensive and seamless-or nearly seamless-approach to getting Java applications to run in the cloud," he said.
It also looks like both VMforce partners-Salesforce and VMware-will get important benefits from the relationship. "I think Salesforce gets access to the Java community in a way it's never had before," Pombriant said. Salesforce gets a chance to sell cloud computing services to up to 6 million Java developers "who predominantly develop for the enterprise, a place where Salesforce wants to be," he noted.
Meanwhile, VMware gets access to a large new community that will likely need the virtualization products it moves into cloud computing and an opportunity to sell the Spring Java framework to even more Java developers.
Pombriant said he believe that the first market for VMforce will be existing Salesforce customers that have large catalogs of Java applications that they would be willing to move into the cloud.
Just as the Force.com customization platform won grassroots adoption by business users, "I think that VMforce could be a grassroots effort for adoption within organizations already predisposed" to using Salesforce's products.
But he said it will take time for the adoption of VMforce to gain momentum. Benioff said a developer preview of VMforce will start later this year. After that, the partners will need to spend a year focusing on building a portfolio of case studies and success stories to show the technology works as promised.
However, at least one Salesforce and VMware customer said he is already sold on the concept.
Dave Smoley, CIO of Flextronics, an electronics manufacturing services provider based in Singapore, said that he already knows how he would use the VMforce technology in his company. Smoley took the stage at the April 27 VMforce introduction flanked by VMware CEO Paul Maritz and Benioff, said his company has Java applications in operation now that the company would use more widely in its global operations if it could move them into the cloud.
Flextronics has 130 manufacturing plants in 30 countries. Smoley said he has one Java application in mind that Flextronics has deployed across several plants and would like to get it running around the world. "Today if I put that into a factory, I've got to put servers in. My IT guys have to build it out, and it takes time," he said.
But if he had access to a platform like VMforce, the company would be able to deploy such applications with "tremendous speed and tremendous scalability." As a result, Flextronics will be closely following the evaluation and deployment of VMforce, he said.