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3/26/2009
10:33 PM
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Salesforce Keeps Tight Control On Cloud Development

The Force.com cloud platform provides an elastic environment for applications, but development in the cloud occurs within a constrained environment.

Salesforce.com continues to expand its Force.com cloud platform, where customers may go not only to customize their Salesforce CRM applications but to build entirely new ones.

"What we offer is significantly different from Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). You don't upload to us a machine image," a virtualized workload known as an Amazon Machine Image, said Dave Carroll, Force.com developer evangelist and author of the original Force.com integrated development environment. He addressed a session at EclipseCon conference in Santa Clara Wednesday.

"We've taken our platform on which we built our successful CRM applications and exposed it to outside developers," he told a roomful of developers and architects. The multitenant nature of the platform becomes something that the outside developer can take advantage of. Gartner analysts have called Force.com "an application server layout" in the cloud, or a way to get application server services outside your own premises.

An application can meet radically scaled-up demand because the application server groups the requests coming in to it and maintains the state of those requests as the application does its work. A developer using Force.com can use specific resources of the platform without worrying about contention with other developers or having his application crowded out by somebody else's server needs. The platform will provide an elastic environment for his application, regardless of the number of its users.

Independent software vendors have used the Force.com platform to build accounting's general ledger applications. They've built recruiting, departmental expense reporting, call center support, and mobile field force technical support applications, he said. These types of applications thrive in the cloud environment. Users can log into their services, regardless of location.

Carroll explained that at the heart of Force.com development services is a centralized database. The first task presented to a developer is to define a data model, using the Force.com wizard, which doesn't require him to be a database architect to do so. "The database is at the core of the application. We provide all the accoutrements around the database," he said.

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