Getting Testy in the Sandbox
Salesforce.com today announced the Salesforce Sandbox, a full production test environment for companies to evaluate or build on-demand business applications. The service optimizes the power of AppExchange and provides one-click access to create fully replicated, highly scalable on-demand customer replica environments for customization, integration, testing, development, and training purposes.
AppExchange is Saleforce's on-demand application sharing service, featuring 85 prebuilt apps created by Salesforce customers and partners. Companies can use the service to add new applications to their existing Salesforce deployments. It was announced this summer at Dreamforce '05; Sandbox will be available as part of the Winter '06 release, scheduled for later in the company's fourth quarter, which ends January 31, 2006.
"With the AppExchange community and customer innovation driving incredible growth in new on-demand applications, companies are, in turn, requiring a more complete environment to drive on-demand success across their entire organizations," said Marc Benioff, CEO and chairman of Salesforce, in a written statement. "With a single click, Salesforce Sandbox will give customers the ability to deploy any number of new on-demand applications with confidence, whether they came from AppExchange or were developed internally."
The new service allows an administrator to create a complete copy of his company's production database. All data and customizations will be recreated in the separate sandbox environment. Companies can choose to have all their corporate data and configurations modeled in the sandbox environment or deploy a configuration-only version that will not include any production data. They can delete or refresh sandboxes as needed, and IT managers have control over refresh initiation and automation. Refreshing will keep the sandbox in sync with any changes or updates made to the production environment, according to Salesforce.
"Sandbox is an important tool for big kids," says Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of Beagle Research Group. "Traditionally, we see organizations needing massages for customization and integration with their existing legacy technology regardless of whether it's on-premise or hosted. In a behind-the-firewall situation, it's okay to have a testing area, everyone has them. But when you migrate to an on-demand solution, you lose that capability and you lose a fair amount of control of your deployment. There's a lot of expectation out there in the marketplace that you can deploy an on-demand solution pretty much automatically. While it's true you can deploy a standard system within minutes, if you have special and unique business processes or if you're going to tailor the business process, you're going to need some time to do that and need some of the tools you'd see in a traditional shop."
Salesforce Sandbox will be available as an additional option for Enterprise Edition customers for $25 per month per existing Enterprise Edition user. Customers also have the option of purchasing the configuration-only version, without data, for $18 per month per existing Enterprise Edition user.
Greg Gianforte, founder and CEO of RightNow Technologies, recognizes the importance of having a testing environment for both on-premise and hosted solutions, and says his company has been providing such an environment to customers free of charge for more than five years. "Essentially, we agree that having a sandbox in which customer can [try] capabilities before they put them in production is part of what we need to do to provide mission-critical CRM," he says.
Still, Pombriant says Saleforce's price is attractive and it is obvious that the company is not using the service as a way to make money, but rather as a way to build its business, recognizing important functions beyond just being a SaaS vendor. "Some people may feel [the service] is counter-intuitive, but I see it as good common sense information technology management," Pombriant says. "We will see other organizations coming out with some kind of similar service in the not-so-distant future."
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