Salesforce.com was founded less than 10 years ago, in March 1999. This is hard to remember when you walk into the Dreamforce event at the Moscone and see all the companies, both large and small, proclaiming that they are part of their ecosystem. Salesforce.com, more than any other company, can claim to have popularized the SaaS concept with their catchy "No Software" logo. Today they are announcing their next step forward.
Dreamforce Annual Milestone Announcements
For many years, Salesforce.com has had the policy of announcing their next big move on the eve of their annual Dreamforce event (aka, where Salesforce partners get to pitch their stuff). In past years they announced internal facing applications, used by employees. Even if the employees were talking to customers, it was still an internal app. The news was simply that it was SaaS.
Today Salesforce.com Says Hello World
They are announcing a way to build apps that connect the internal facing processes that drive and account for transactions with the external public web based apps. This is a big move. The two examples they showed were travel and recruitment, but it does not take too much imagination to think of more. Given the size of the Dreamforce ecosystem on display in the convention center, one assumes that there is a big pipeline of apps under development.
Which Way Do You Face?
As with any new tool or API, there are other ways to achieve the same end. The question is simply which way is more efficient. It is really a question of which way you face. Do you look from the web into back end enterprise systems? That is the traditional way it is done today. The web developer asks the back end system how they want their data and how it will get data back. The Salesforce.com way looks the other way, from the back end systems out to the world.
Timing Is Good To Get Developers
They are likely to get a lot of traction with developers for three reasons:
1. Enterprise SaaS is going mainstream, it is a big market to get into right now.
2. Consumer services are facing a downturn, developers need something new.
3. Getting into back end processes is a better way to build long term client engagements.
Platforms Here, Platforms There
Platforms are everywhere. Developers love Amazon Web Services and Google App Engine looks so cool. There will be a bit of tug within the developers between what looks most technically elegant with least lock-in, versus what will make money quickly and reliably. It is possible that Salesforce will appeal to these more pragmatic types, the ones who have been the mainstay of the Microsoft ecosystem in the past.