Salesforce.com, over the past few years, has been reinventing itself as a platform company. IMHO, this is an extremely difficult thing to do for a company who’s cash flow is defined by the CRM market, an acronym that Salesforce.com adopted as a stock ticker. When Salesforce.com first announced Apex, it’s new fangled programming language and pseudo-stack, I took a highly critical stance because it was a clear attempt by a marketing and business team to tackle problems that only technologists can properly understand: building runtimes and frameworks that could provide a foundation for future software in the Cloud. My gripe was that Salesforce chose to create a new language that wasn’t rooted in a development paradigm shift where changes in a programmers ability to express solutions are the motivator, and instead decided to base the language development on seemingly more selfish interests and coupled the languages runtime to their operating and hosting environment. Essentially, they created vertically integrated lock-in, which is terrible for customers and the lack of purer motivations on the language development side produced a sub-par development stack best suited for small add ons.
Now we’re in 2010, and the story is starting to change, and seemingly for the better. At Dreamforce this year, Salesforce.com announced the acquisition of Heroku, the well known Ruby PaaS. Not too long ago, Salesforce.com and VMWare announced VMForce, bringing Java into the Salesforce.com cloud. Salesforce.com’s evolution seems to be taking it down a path of stack agnosticism. This could be due to good strategic decisions making, or out of an attempt to correct a failed path with Force.com/Apex. Whatever the case maybe, its clear that Salesforce.com is embracing other stacks, and no longer focusing on creating a new $1 billion business by brute force.
It will be interesting to see where Salesforce.com goes with this. Will they make Java officially part of their Cloud by folding up a partnership with VMWare and instead make a Java Cloud their own competency? Might they go after Microsoft’s base by building or acquiring a value proposition that targets .NET developers and attempts to attract that group (who own 40% or so of the development market share) away from Azure? Who knows how far they’ll go, but one thing is clear: the Heroku acquisition clearly signaled that they want to do something different, and that something includes languages and runtime’s well outside of Apex. I really am glad that they’re adding true value and no longer beating the Force.com drum exclusively.
How do you feel about Salesforce.com’s Heroku acquisition? Any predictions on the success or failure?
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