Salesforce.com Brings Utility Computing to On-Demand -- But Not to CRM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Software-as-a-service just got a little more utilitarian. As part of a swath of announcements made at its Tour de Force launch event here today, Salesforce.com cofounder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff unveiled a new pay-as-you-go model that moves the industry past yearly licenses, monthly fees, or per-user costs, introducing for the first time a pay-per-login pricing structure that allows companies to pay as little as five dollars for a single user to access the full scope of the vendor's Force.com platform. In fact, as part of a promotional effort to introduce the new pricing model, Salesforce.com is offering a per-login price of just 99 cents per login through the end of the year. Some minimums do apply: Companies have to buy at least five logins per named user, and those purchased logins expire after one month. (Heavier users of the platform --- those who log in more than five times a month -- can still take advantage of an existing pricing tier, beginning at $50 per user per month for unlimited logins.) CRM users, however, may have to keep the cork in the celebratory Champagne. Salesforce.com took pains to point out that the new pricing is "for occasional-use, widely deployed applications" only, and is available just for platform use -- not for CRM applications. As part of the launch, Salesforce.com also began to reposition its "platform-as-a-service" concept as part of a burgeoning trend in the technology world, introducing the Force.com Cloud Computing Architecture. In his keynote, Benioff cited not just technology-industry sources, but also mainstream press such as BusinessWeek and The New York Times to underscore the growing buzz around "the cloud" -- and was joined onstage by Marc Andreessen, the cofounder of Netscape and, later, Opsware/Loudcloud, a cloud-computing pioneer. Andreessen, Benioff told the crowd, "practically invented the very core technologies we're now using, mainstream," and welcomed Andreessen onstage by noting that "the evolution of your career matches the evolution of the Internet itself." Andreessen spoke mostly about Ning, his latest company and one of the vanguard of consumer-based social networks -- and how that company has benefited from the overall shift to an Internet-based or "cloud" platform. "There's going to be a whole wave -- thousands -- of new platform companies," he told the crowd. Describing the longtime definition of a platform as, "You -- the end user -- can program it," Andreessen suggested that the notion of platforms has progressed from "the old way of thinking about the platform stack" (applications delivered from a server or mainframe), and that a "third wave" of platforms is now upon us, a transformation relevant to "all kinds of data and analytics applications," from financial services to gaming. The primary distinction for companies, he noted, is that it "relieves developers of the burden of worrying how the applications run." Benioff also stressed the value of the cloud for larger companies. "Cloud computing, or platform-as-a-service, has enormous potential for the enterprise," he said in a statement, adding that the concept "offers almost unlimited computing power and collaboration at a massive scale." The new architecture, he added, provides "the necessary building blocks to make cloud computing real for the enterprise." In addition, following on the footsteps of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS), the Tour de Force event took the wrapper off development-as-a-service (DaaS), a set of development tools and application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow developers to make the most of cloud computing. The DaaS set-up offers the following benefits:
  • Provides full access to the database, logic, and user interface capabilities of the Force.com platform;
  • unites the productivity of development and IT collaboration tools with the power PaaS; and
  • includes several new features:
    • Metadata API, which lets developers integrate with development tools and processes to create and manage an application's code and metadata by providing access to the database schema, Apex code, and Visualforce user interfaces that comprise a Force.com application.
    • The Integrated Development Environment (IDE), which provides a means to manage all standard application-creation development tasks, such as project views, HTML composition, rich code editing with error tracking, and more.
    • The Force.com Sandbox, which provides a separate on-demand environment for application development, testing, and training -- in effect, cloning through a single click an entire development project with an exact replica (including all customizations and data). The Sandbox provides a means for testing new customizations or features and for building and testing integrations and internally built applications. ("This is huge," one longtime Salesforce.com partner told destinationCRM.com during the event.);
    • A code-share capability that lets users collaborate on a global scale on the development, testing, and deployment of enterprise applications that can be delivered as SaaS. This feature includes project hosting on Google Code.
Not all of the new features come at the same cost, though: Metadata API, IDE, and Code Share are now in developer preview and available for free at http://developer.force.com. Sandbox is included with the company's Unlimited Edition and is available for a fee with other editions. In other Salesforce.com news, the company announced its Force.com Million Dollar Challenge -- a competition for entrepreneurs developing applications to run on the Force.com platform. The winner -- to be announced in November at Dreamforce 2008, Salesforce.com's user and developer conference -- will have the opportunity to negotiate with San Mateo, Calif.-based venture-capital firm Emergence Capital for a potential $1 million investment. "You only have to give them a few points in your company," Benioff joked during the keynote, a nod toward Emergence's role as an early investor in Salesforce.com. The winner will also receive a one-year lease at Salesforce.com's AppExchange Incubator facility. Related Articles: Salesforce.com's Soapbox Is the Platform At Dreamforce '07, AppExchange says hello to its younger, bigger sister: Force.com, touted as "platform-as-a-service"; the family also welcomes a cousin: Visualforce, hailed as "user-interface-as-a-service." Salesforce.com Introduces Platform-as-a-Service With its Summer '07 release, the on-demand specialist expands from on-demand applications to on-demand platforms. Salesforce.com Uncouples Apps from CRM The company introduces Salesforce Platform Edition, a version that allows application development and sharing without a CRM subscription. Salesforce's Dreams of Apex Marc Benioff outlines the company's new customization and programming platform, discusses community development, and announces Winter '07.
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