Aiming to make mobile and social application development that much easier, Salesforce.com released a platform update Monday delivering geo-location data, a drag-and-drop schema builder, and REST-based APIs for collaboration and other data services.
The Summer '12 upgrade introduced this week marks Salesforce.com's 38th release and continues the cloud computing vendor's pattern of issuing three major updates each year. With this upgrade, the emphasis is on Force.com platform-as-a-service capabilities.
With use of mobile apps on the rise, Summer '12 exposes new geo-location fields through the platform's Database.com services. This might include locations of customers, mobile employees, or goods at various points in distribution.
"We've shifted to a mobile-first world where everything needs to be location aware, so we're making latitude and longitude natively available," Quinton Wall, Salesforce.com's director of tech platform marketing, told InformationWeek. This location data can be implemented with the aid of a mobile software development kit, Wall said.
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The Summer release also marks the general release of a drag-and-drop Schema Builder tool (previously in beta) that makes it easy to connect data sources and targets without coding-intensive integration work, according to Salesforce.com.
The Schema Builder, as well as the location feed and Salesforce Chatter collaboration feed, use REST (REpresentational State Transfer) application programming interfaces (APIs). REST APIs are increasingly favored in Web and mobile development for their speed of implementation, displacing more complicated SOAP and WSDL Web service-call methods.
"I can do queries very quickly and easily against those REST APIs, and I don't have to create or deploy a WSDL file, deploy an add-on to an app server, or even push a schema update to the database," Wall said.
The Summer '12 upgrade supports real-time apps without requiring customers to install and run messaging middleware or use expensive polling techniques. Developers simply specify "push topic" information to be sent to users whenever there's an event or update.
"A manufacturer could use this approach to notify a distributor that finished goods have come off an assembly line and are ready for shipment," Wall explained.
Wall noted that Web and mobile apps developed on the Force.com platform take advantage of Salesforce.com role--and user-defined security access controls, giving IT centralized control over access to information.
Salesforce.com says it now supports more than 300,000 customized applications built by some 500,000 developers using its platform. In addition, independent software vendor (ISV) partners (like ERP vendors Infor and Kanandy) now offer more than 1,500 cloud-based applications on the company's AppExchange.
Taking advantage of the push capabilities delivered with Summer '12, ISVs now have the option to push app functionality upgrades or new content to app users automatically rather than forcing them to pull in such updates.
"That's the real benefit of cloud computing model: you can continually update an application and make the changes available in real time without the end user needing to know about it," said Mike Rosenbaum, Salesforce.com's senior VP or platform operations and AppExchange.
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