Salesforce.com Inc. is moving from providing hosted CRM applications to providing hosted software development tools with the release last week of its Sforce online application development utility.
The San Francisco-based company, which has more than 6,500 companies using its customer relationship management applications, is partnering with several big names on Sforce. With backing from Microsoft Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., Borland Software Corp. and BEA Systems Inc., Sforce provides Web services that allow corporate developers to build Internet applications with the development tools they already use.
"Theyre exposing their data stores as Web services, and weve got the programming tools to access them," said Danl Lewin, corporate vice president, U.S. .Net platform strategy for Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash.
Enterprises that use Salesforce.com will be able to use Sforce to build tighter connections to other applications in their environment via Web services technologies such as XML, Web Services Description Language and Simple Object Access Protocol. But Salesforce.com is also positioning Sforce as a way for enterprises and software vendors to build their own applications as services.
More than 25 software companies have already signed on to use Sforce to develop their own hosted services. Most of these companies are developing services specifically for Salesforce.com customers. The add-ons are accessed and data is stored at Salesforce.com.
But Salesforce.com is also expecting enterprises to build their own applications using Sforce, which will also serve as a way to integrate the Salesforce.com service with back-end applications.
"Were building and delivering tools and services to allow companies to create their own utilities," said Salesforce. com CEO Marc Benioff at a launch event here last week. Benioff described the new Salesforce.com offering as a "client service" offering.
Salesforce.com user Sheldon Tkatch, senior project manager for Salesforce.com customer Garrett Aviation Service Centers, a subsidiary of General Electric Co., said he expects to use Sforce for application integration, as well as for building extensions to Salesforce. com. Sforce will make those things easy to do, Tkatch said.
"It may not seem like the most sexy stuff, but its what we do every day in the business world," said Tkatch, in Tempe, Ariz. "But automating six or seven of the steps that it would normally take reduces the chances of error and missed activity and increases productivity."