Tag Archives: vmforce

Salesforce.com acquires Heroku, wants your Enterprise apps

The big news today is that Salesforce.com has agreed to acquire Heroku, a company which hosts Ruby applications using an architecture that enables seamless scalability. Heroku apps run on “dynos”, each of which is a single process running Ruby code on the Heroku “grid” – an abstraction which runs on instances of Amazon EC2 virtual machines. To scale your app, you simply add more dynos.


Why is Salesforce.com acquiring Heroku? Well, for some years an interesting question about Salesforce.com has been how it can escape its cloud CRM niche. The obvious approach is to add further applications, which it has done to some extent with FinancialForce, but it seems the strategy now is to become a platform for custom business applications. We already knew about VMForce, a partnership with VMWare currently in beta that lets you host Java applications that are integrated with Force.com, but it is with the announcements here at Dreamforce that the pieces are falling into place. Database.com for data access and storage; now Heroku for Ruby applications.

These services join several others which Salesforce.com is branding at Force.com 2:

Appforce – in effect the old Force.com, build departmental apps with visual tools and declarative code.

Siteforce – again an existing capability, build web sites on Force.com.

ISVForce – build your own multi-tenant application and sign up customers.

Salesforce.com is thoroughly corporate in its approach and its obvious competition is not so much Google AppEngine or Amazon EC2, but Microsoft Azure: too expensive for casual developers, but with strong Enterprise features.

Identity management is key to this battle. Microsoft’s identity system is Active Directory, with federation between local and cloud directories enabling single sign-on. Salesforce.com has its own user directory and developing on its platform will push you towards using it.

Today’s announcement makes sense of something that puzzled me: why we got a session on node.js at Monday’s Cloudstock event. It was a great session and I wrote it up here. Heroku has been experimenting with node.js support, with considerable success, and says it will introduce a new version next year.

Finally, the Heroku acquisition is great news for Enterprise use of Ruby. Today many potential new developers will be looking at it with interest.

The Salesforce.com platform: what’s new, what’s coming

I’m attending the Cloudforce conference in London to catch up on what’s new with the Salesforce.com platform. CEO Marc Benioff was on good form, with a fun slide in his keynote presentation saying “Beware of the false cloud” – this was a jab at private clouds which he considers lack the advantages of a multi-tenanted public cloud platform like, you know, Salesforce.com. He has some justification – operating your own cloud is clearly a significant IT burden to carry – but that is the price of freedom. His company continues to report impressive growth.  The theme this year is Salesforce.com Chatter, a Twitter-like service embedded into the platform, for which there are just-announced mobile clients (Apple iOS, Blackberry, Android coming) as well as integration with the web UI and programmable platform.

Chatter is reducing email usage for adopters, apparently; Benioff says by 40% in his own company. Another of its advantages (aside from general social media goodness) is that users cannot attach documents directly, but only links to documents – pass by reference not by value – which is a better approach to collaboration. Of course you can do this in emails as well, but people habitually do not. It makes you think – maybe the likes of Outlook should do this by default, saving no end of space in corporate mailboxes. Or perhaps we should just use Chatter instead.

But what about the developer angle, the Force.com platform that lets you build custom applications? I attended a session on the subject. There was a comment from partner Nimbus which caught my ear – the speaker said that they avoid writing custom Apex code wherever possible, and generally find ways to use the platform’s built-in features instead. His rationale: “You will have to live with that code for ever”. It is another angle on declarative programming, in which you declare your intentions and let some underlying engine transform them into actual code. The advantage is not only ease of development, but also that improvements in the engine can enhance the application without any need to rewrite code.

I asked what is new and what is coming in the Force.com platform. Chatter is one element; one of its key features is that applications can “chat” as well as individuals. Another theme is workflow tools, and integrating the technology acquired with Informavores, which is being rebuilt on the Salesforce.com platform as Visual Process Manager. In tune with the remarks from Nimbus, there is also an effort to reduce the need for Apex code and to offer guided steps that business users can apply without the need of a development specialist. Another focus is scalability – “people are starting to use the platform in ways that we didn’t think of” – which mean back end work to handle their demands. Finally, there is the joint development with VMWare called VMForce that lets you run Java with full access to the Force.com API.

VMforce: Salesforce partners VMware to run Java in the cloud

Salesforce and VMware have announced VMforce, a new cloud platform for enterprise applications. You will be able to deploy Java applications to VMforce, where they will run on a virtual platform provided by VMware. There will be no direct JDBC database access on the platform itself, but it will support the Java persistence API, with objects stored on Force.com. Applications will have full access to the Salesforce CRM platform, including new collaboration features such as Chatter, as well as standard Java Enterprise Edition features provided by Tomcat and the Spring framework. Springsource is a division of VMware.

A developer preview will be available in the second half of 2010; no date is yet announced for the final release.

There are a couple of different ways to look at this announcement. From the perspective of a Force.com developer, it means that full Java is now available alongside the existing Apex language. That will make it easier to port code and use existing skills. From the perspective of a Java developer looking for a hosted deployment platform, it means another strong contender alongside others such as Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

The trade-off is that with Amazon EC2 you have pretty much full control over what you deploy on Amazon’s servers. VMforce is a more restricted platform; you will not be able to install what you like, but have to run on what is provided. The advantage is that more of the management burden is lifted; VMforce will even handle backup.

I could not get any information about pricing or even how the new platform will be charged. I suspect it will compete more on quality than on price. However I was told that smooth scalability is a key goal.

More information here.