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Dreamforce: Salesforce Tools Emerge From Its Own Cloud

CEO Marc Benioff asserts his customers in effect are tapping into a cloud when they run their Salesforce applications from two U.S. data centers over the Internet.
In addition, Salesforce is providing its customers with toolkits that tap into the Amazon cloud services. "We can extend our storage layer to tap into the Amazon Simple Storage Service," said Harris, the slender figure and technology brains behind Salesforce. With Benioff and others, he is co-founder of the firm. On stage at Dreamforce, he was often overshadowed by Benioff's salesmanship and ongoing narrative, fighting to get in a few comments from the margin.

The Force.com Toolkit for S3 allows a Salesforce application, written in Salesforce's Java-like Apex language, to invoke the API for Amazon S3 and send its data into the Amazon cloud, as if it were a storage service native to the Salesforce platform. The Dreamforce event was also marked by Salesforce announcing it will host its customers' Web sites, built out of Salesforce applications and components, from Salesforce data centers.

"With Force.com Sites, customers can run their Web sites in our cloud," said Benioff in an opening keynote yesterday.

The Sites building capabilities are now available only in developer preview, with full scale delivery slated for sometime in 2009, Harris said. "You can do a lot with our (applications and) services without writing a line of code." Salesforce offer its customers Visual Force, a graphical user interface development environment, the Apex programming language and a "clicks and components" development environment where parts of an application can be assembled without writing code.

Use of Force.com Sites will eventually be priced according to the traffic that a customer's site attracts. The Group Edition of Sites may host up 50,000 page views a month; the Professional Edition, up to 250,000 page views; Enterprise Edition, 500,000 page views and Unlimited Edition, 1 million page views. No specific pricing for the different editions has been announced at this point.

To further understand how Salesforce.com, Amazon, and other companies large and small are approaching cloud computing, InformationWeek has published an independent report on the subject. Download the report here (registration required).