No longer a one-size-fits-all solution, Salesforce.com is taking modularity down to the customer level and hopes to bring its hosted solution beyond CRM.
Recognizing the needs of enterprises looking for more customization, today Salesforce.com introduced sforce, an online application-development utility to enable companies to build business applications within the hosted software delivery model.
Sforce, which will be available as a Web-based service for a monthly per-user fee, enables developers to build applications on the sforce architecture using products like Microsoft Visual Studio, Borland JBuilder, BEA WebLogic Workshop, and Sun's Java to build enterprise solutions. Sforce provides core application services like authentication, data management, document management, and text search.
"Sforce is significant for Salesforce.com. This is the first product to be offered under a new brand, and represents an important extension for the company," says Mike Kreaden, director of product and technology alliances at Salesforce.com. "Initially, we expect that sforce will benefit and be used primarily by current and new CRM customers looking to extend the use of Salesforce.com throughout their organization. Over time, however, it is likely that sforce will be used to build client/service applications by a whole new class of customers, many of whom may not use the company's CRM offerings."
The development utility is generally available, and the cost is $50 per user, per month, plus $1 per megabyte, per month with the first three users, and 10 MB are free for the first year. Deployment is free for Salesforce.com Enterprise Edition customers. "We expect all of our Enterprise Edition customers who get sforce for free to leverage some capabilities of the new service," Kreaden says.
Salesforce.com has traditionally been limited to solutions for sales, marketing, and customer support professionals. Sforce, however, enables other parts of an organization, such as finance and operations, to have solutions that meet their specific needs, according to Kreaden.
Companies can share data securely with partners, suppliers, customers, and employees outside of their corporate networks. Using industry-standard Web-service protocols like XML, WSDL and SOAP, sforce developers can build applications for PCs, PDAs, smart phones, and other Internet-aware devices without buying additional software or servers, Salesforce.com stated in a release.
Laurie McCabe, an analyst covering Web hosting at Summit Strategies, says this is a win-win for customers, but warns that except for the packaging, competitors already offer similar capabilities. "The whole thing is based on Web standards--SOAP, XML, and http. All the Web-hosting companies, such as UpShot and Salesnet, have already structured their software on these standards," she says. "It remains to be seen whether Salesforce.com is any different than its competitors."
Yet some Salesforce.com customers are ready to speak out on Salesforce.com's uniqueness. Already, Salesforce.com has 25 customers who are using sforce, 11 of which, including Angel.com, Aspire Technologies, AvantGo, Blue Martini Software, and Business Objects, will exhibit applications they built using sforce at the Grand Havana Room in New York City on Tuesday evening.