Salesforce: Get Ready For Development As A Service
Salesforce.com is offering an integrated development environment that will work in the programmer's browser window.
If you've gotten accustomed to the idea of software as a service, then get ready for software development as a service. As presented by Salesforce.com, you don't need a client-server set up with a programmer's workstation linked to a database server.
Instead, you can "just open your browser," said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com.
Salesforce.com is offering an integrated development environment that will work in the programmer's browser window and connect to resources that are part of its Force.com's platform. The approach was dubbed Cloud Computing Architecture by Benioff as he addressed an auditorium full of Salesforce developers and business partners in a San Francisco hotel on Thursday.
"We're working hard to become the first software-as-a-service company to reach $1 billion," an event he predicted would happen sometime in Saleforce's fiscal year 2009.
Benioff illustrated how Salesforce's new development service will be able to reach out to other Internet resources, as well as Salesforce's existing database, user interface, and security services. Narinder Singh, founder of Apperio, showed how he built a cinema sound management system that tapped into Google's Chart API. It delivered a chart as needed to illustrate the functioning of an individual theatre's sound system.
Benioff introduced Cloud Computing Architecture's Development-as-a-Service, a long name for what is currently a repackaged Eclipse IDE that's tied to Salesforce platform resources. The Force IDE is in "developer preview" with no delivery date other than later in 2008. Eclipse is an open source programmer's workbench into which Eclipse-compatible tools may be plugged and used together.
The Force IDE lets the browser window serve for editing code, tacking errors, storing code in a change control system, or deploying it to servers.
Benioff named a new element in the online development service, the Metadata API, which allows new online applications to be integrated with an enterprise's existing Salesforce applications. The database schemas, user interface components, or Apex code objects of the existing applications can be identified, converted to XML, and loaded into the IDE for use with a new online application. If customers have customized their Salesforce applications using the Salesforce language, Apex, the Metadata API can capture and pass on data about the code that will allow the new application to build similar components or functions based on it.
The Development-as-a-Service also provides access to Salesforce's existing VisualForce user interface modeling and development environment.
The main thing that was new, however, was the pricing. An enterprise building a low-volume, occasional use application through Force.com, such as an online vacation scheduling app, faces a list price of $5 for each user login, but will only be charged 99 cents through 2008 in an effort to promote use of the new platform. More frequently used applications will carry a fee of $50 per user per month for an unlimited number of logins.
Marc Andreesen, leader of the team at the University of Illinoise at Champaign/Urbana that developed the Mosaic browser and a founder of Netscape, appeared at the event and said online development will one day supplant in-house, workstation development because of the resources that it can pull together. "I think there are going to be thousands of new platform companies -- you the end user can program it," he said.
Andreesen is currently CEO of Ning, a supplier of a platform for online development of social networking applications.
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