Apex Gives SAP a Case of Vertigo

SAP  may be feeling the heat.

The world’s largest vendor of ERP  software was quick to
deprecate Apex, the new programming environment announced by Salesforce.com  this week.

Apex is a Java-like programming environment that will allow developers to
customize applications running on the Salesforce.com platform, according to
its own specifications.

This innovation addresses one of the principal objections to the
software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, which is that on-demand applications are
one-size-fits-all because customers use the same instance of an application
over a shared infrastructure.


According to SAP, however, Salesforce.com cannot escape the fundamental flaw
in its delivery model, which is that companies deploying SaaS cannot use
technology to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

“Salesforce is still a one-trick pony and I don’t think the industry is
looking for one-trick; they’re looking for a partner,” said Peter Graf,
executive vice president for solution marketing at SAP.

Graf also told internetnews.com that allowing customers to program
applications that run in a shared, or multi-tenant, environment, is “like
opening Pandora’s box,” because customers would have to rely on the
competence and ethics of other enterprises sharing the application.

“Even assuming no one has any bad intentions, a developer can bring down a
system. Do I want to be dependent on a developer from another organization?
The single-biggest concern to people running multi-tenancy anyway is that
you can still run into outages caused by other customers,” Graf said.

“We believe this is a real security issue for customers,” he added.

But Adam Gross, vice president of developer marketing for Salesforce.com,
responded that Salesforce.com anticipated this issue by limiting what
portions of code can be customized in the Apex environment.

He likened the constraints to the governor in a car that keeps the motor
from going past a certain speed regardless of how much gas it gets.

“It controls what data you can access and in what context, it monitors
queries, loops — you can’t write an infinite loop that iterates forever. We
are actively monitoring what’s going on,” he told internetnews.com.

The new solution received accolades from several analysts, and observers
noted that customers and developers present at the announcement seemed
delighted.

Denis Pombriant, managing principal at Beagle Research, noted that where
developers are concerned, Apex puts Salesforce.com in the same league with
on-premise software vendors.

“They’ve gone the last mile in delivering complete parity between on-demand
for professionals versus a development environment for traditional
applications,” he told internetnews.com.

He also said that Apex is “orders of magnitude less expensive to work with
and deploy on” than traditional on-premise software platforms.

There is no doubt that, one-trick pony or not, the company has become a
force to be reckoned with.


Salesforce.com boasts more than half a million users.

Moreover, the 400-plus applications available to customers on its
AppExchange platform demonstrates the strong hold it has over its partner
community.


This may explain why SAP has gone so far out of its way as to send e-mail
to the press in order to disparage Apex.

This is in sharp contrast to the past, when it treated Salesforce.com with
benign neglect.

“If they were in passive denial before, they’re in active denial now,” said
Pombriant.

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