The move combines two leaders in separate elements of cloud computing -- VMware's virtualization and Salesforce's software-as-a-service (SaaS) -- into a more integrated cloud platform with direct appeal to enterprise Java programmers. By developing in the cloud, many deployment issues can be sidestepped by making the development and deployment environments the same thing.
"Java has emerged as the leading enterprise language of choice" for business applications, said Jerry Chen, manager of cloud strategy at VMware. The new development environment will have "all the productivity of Spring with all the availability of Force.com," he added.
Force.com thus far has been a development platform primarily for existing Salesforce.com customers. Developers have been able to modify their standard SaaS applications using the VisualForce user interface components provided by Salesforce and the Apex business logic, a proprietary language from Salesforce.
Users of VMforce, however, will be able to get away from those restrictions and use their preferred Java tools and skills to produce the applications they want to run on Force.com.
The move represents VMware's bid to become a larger player in the cloud after finding itself unwelcome at the largest supplier of cloud services so far: Amazon Web Services. AWS run virtual machines in EC2, but they are a variant of the open source Xen hypervisor. EC2 does not accept workloads based on VMware's ESX hypervisor, at least not at this time.
The move also illustrates how the competition to supply cloud services is heating up. Application development is likely to be the next arena of competition as major vendors look for more cloud computing customers.
Microsoft is paving the way on that front with its Azure cloud services. It has begun to adapt Visual Studio and .Net technologies for ease of use and productive output inside Azure and supplies an Azure message bus and SQL Server-compatible database services in its cloud.
VMware, with its $362 million acquisition of the Spring Framework last August, gained the means to compete with Amazon and Microsoft on a new front. VMware estimates that the Spring Framework is used by an estimated two million Java developers for developing Java applications using less complex methods than the full Java Enterprise Edition approach. Spring applications are sometimes referred to as lightweight Java in the same way as PHP and MySQL are used for lighter weight Web applications.
By developing for the Force.com infrastructure, Java developers can produce applications "that are pre-connected to the Force.com database services, search, and analytics. They will be running on the Force.com platform with all its security provisions as trusted applications," said Ariel Kelman, Salesforce.com VP of platform marketing.
The Force.com platform is primarily a development site for database-oriented applications, much like the Salesforce SaaS CRM applications that already run on it.