One comment I hear regularly from Salesforce.com users (or potential users) are the concerns around the price, and lack of flexibility around pricing, of the Salesforce.com solution. It’s an issue that I predicted would see some movement at Dreamforce last year, but one that Salesforce.com has been mostly resisting. Part of the reason that it hasn’t had to adjust pricing is that Salesforce.com users are essentially locked in to the platform. For example, someone wanting to do some development testing work on a Force.com application has no option but to do it on Force.com itself.
Ben Kepes is author of Diversity.net.nz, a blog that focuses on SaaS, cloud-computing and Web 2.0 for the real world.
That may just be changing. Rollbase, an alternative platform that we covered recently, has introduced an automatic migration from Force.com. This means that users can, in theory, take a Force.com application and transfer it, with the application logic intact, to either Rollbase’s own servers or, in something amusing given Salesforce.com’s disdain of servers, to on-premise customer hardware.
Rollbase is pretty cheap and cheerful – monthly fees for a basic service are $30 with tiered pricing for more specific functionality. It’s also eminently flexible in terms of deployment – Rollbase.com can host it on its own cloud or it can be downloaded
The Rollbase Automated Force.com Migration Tool (this is the bit that aims to ease the acquisition of Force.com customers) is available now at no additional cost as part of the Rollbase.com Hosted Cloud service as well as Rollbase Private Cloud, which can be downloaded, installed and deployed on both in-house or third party hardware.
There are a couple of caveats, the Rollbase site advises that:
Rollbase cannot convert APEX and SOQL code for you. Some formula fields and components with custom code may not work in Rollbase without modification
I decided to put Rollbase to the test and in an undercover operation, with the names of the operatives changed to protect their privacy (for obvious) reasons, I arranged for a trial of Rollbase to occur. We discovered the following:
- Initial hiccup. Signed up, received login details but they didn’t work. Seems the email goes out immediately but there is some delay in provisioning the account. Tried again later and it worked.
- UI is fairly basic and spare.
- CRM module inspired by Salesforce.com clearly. Same core objects, core functionality.
- Salesforce.com import feature was simple and straight forward. Tested importing a standard object Cases and a related custom object.
- Looks like formula fields etc come across but the syntax won’t always translate.
- Received an email from Rollbase CEO Matt Robinson advising they had proactively fixed my formulas which hadn’t translated. Very good.
On balance for the price it seems very reasonable. They’ve managed to incorporate a good deal of functionality.
That’s a pretty ringing endorsement from this person who isn’t one to lavish praise readily. Rollbase has a logical use case out there – it’s unlikely to see any sort of mass migration from Salesforce.com, partly because of the limitations on what can be imported and partly because of all the extra service and support (and, yes, certainty) that goes with being a Salesforce.com customer). However for very plain implementations of Salesforce.com, or specific test/dev situations, Rollbase could be on to a winner. It’s also worth considering that the Microsoft Access import feature might be appealing for some organizations as a way to inexpensively convert simple Microsoft Access database applications to cloud delivery.
The video below gives an intro to the Rollbase solution: