Salesforce.com Connecting the Clouds

NEW YORK — Salesforce has helped revolutionize software-as-a-service (SaaS), then helped push platforms-as-a-service as more customers integrated their Salesforce.com on-demand applications with other platforms from Google and Amazon.com.

So it would stand to reason that integration would be the next big phase from the SaaS leader as customers take their platform-integrated applications and then launch them into Web sites or entirely new applications.

Today, Salesforce.com talked about its latest approach to connect all the different cloud computing services that are forming for enterprise customers in what it calls a “new era in Enterprise Cloud Computing.”

The idea is to help customers run their whole company with Salesforce.com applications customized for their own needs by integrating different application platforms. Call it integration as a service.

Its Checkout service combines its Force.com platform with the AppExchange platform to provide a “single source for finding, trying, buying and deploying Salesforce.com applications and partner-built Force.com applications via the Force.com AppExchange,” Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) said today.

The latest news comes at a time when developers are building more Salesforce.com applications natively, added Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com. As a result, “customers can now benefit from a seamless buying experience for both salesforce.com and Force.com partner applications.”

Salesforce.com said it has 19 native applications already available on the Force.com Checkout service and that it would not charge independent software vendors to sell any of the applications until 2010.

Connecting the clouds is not the only trend Salesforce.com is planning to build out in 2009 (when these features will be generally available). The company is gearing up to offer applications that enable customers to create more media-friendly presentations and packages, which can then be shared with groups.

They include improved slide presentations that take little more than drag and drop functions, while adding video and PDF documents into one presentation package, which can then be hosted for whole sales teams to pull down and use.

“Now all the sales people around the world are leveraging their information,” said George Hu, executive vice president of marketing for Salesforce.com. “This is a huge new area for us,” he said as he demonstrated the features. “We’re very excited about this direction.”

Next page: A peek of things to come.

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Look for the coming year to showcase improved Salesforce.com functionality for mobile applications and devices too, if some of Hu’s demonstrations today are any indication. Plus, they work on any mobile device because the platforms are integrated with Salesforce.com, he added.

The coming attractions were part of a news event today during which the SaaS leader showcased its Force.com platform as a service (PaaS) for the Google App Engine application development platform.

Salesforce.com executives explained that the latest collaboration with Google leverages the already-strong ties between the two developer communities. The latest tie-up, executives added, means that developers can now download a Force.com library into Google App Engine, and this will natively appear in the App Engine environment.

The news, and sneak peeks at coming attractions, are part of Salesforce.com’s expansion of its services to include hosting the applications that
customers build. It includes integrating them between platforms, and also providing any other software and technology businesses that need to run — billing, collections, marketing, analytics, for example, on top of hosting services.

“At the heart of it is the multi-tenant kernel,” Benioff said, explaining the layered approach that underlines the cloud computing concepts on which Salesforce.com and its customers’ applications are built. “Now, they’re all running on a multi-tenant database. This is only possible in the new world of the cloud.”

Salesforce.com specializes in surrounding customers with a common architecture to host their software. With the latest integration-as-a-service trend, “we are working hard to open that up to you.”

“Salesforce.com is seeing so much development in the platform and in the datacenter [that developers] are starting to build natively on our platform,” Benioff explained. “It’s kind of an evolution,” a logical next step that followed mashups, a term embodied by sites that integrate Google map features on their own site by using Google’s application programming interfaces, or APIs .

“These applications are metadata to us,” Benioff said. “Therefore, the platform warrants the attributes of those that are running natively on our platform,” he explained. “Customers are saying ‘we want the same security as Salesforce.com’.”

Benioff also pointed out how the recession is bringing even more companies into the fold as they look for ways to control and cut their IT costs. That puts the cost savings of cloud computing and SaaS in the sweet spot.

“We’ve already bought the servers from Dell, the storage from EMC, the switches from Cisco the cooling systems, replication and other systems. “You don’t have to do that and take on the capital expenses.”

Now, Salesforce.com is integrating its platform and connecting the clouds, such as Amazon’s Web services, for example. “We’re deeply integrating our cloud with their cloud. Now, [developers] want to do the same with Facebook.”

As the different cloud platforms are connected, developers increasingly write for the Web instead of Windows, Mac or Linux, explained Tom Stocky, a director of product management at Google (NASDAQ: GOOG). “This makes the cloud more accessible and keeps connectivity pervasive. The Web has won. It’s become the [default] platform.”

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