Dreamforce: Salesforce Tools Emerge From Its Own Cloud - InformationWeek

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11/4/2008
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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.

Once considered the poster child for software as a service, Salesforce.com is now lifting its "No Software" vision into the clouds.

"Some tasks want massive computing power," said Parker Harris, executive VP of technology at Salesforce.com during the company's Dreamforce conference in San Francisco Tuesday. And if some of those tasks happen to be located on the Salesforce.com platform, Salesforce wants to give them a chance to be executed in Amazon's compute cloud.

Salesforce now sees itself as cloud computing vendor instead of an online applications supplier. It users in effect are tapping into a cloud when they run their applications from two U.S. data centers over the Internet, with one soon to open in Singapore. Those three centers will be followed by one in Europe and another in Japan. From this computing resource base, Salesforce is offering to let its customers build and run applications on its platform, customize their standard Salesforce applications, launch Web sites and tap into other cloud services.

"There's never been a better time for cloud computing," said Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com at a press briefing at the Intercontinental Hotel after the opening of Dreamforce user group conference in San Francisco yesterday. Despite the economic downturn, "I've been very optimistic this entire year. We haven't made any changes to our plans," he said.

Tasks that need massive computing power can be exported to Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud or EC2, where they can executed as an Amazon Machine Image, or set of virtualized files ready to run in the EC2's virtual machines. In its first appearance, the Force.com Tools for EC2 only allow the developer to use PHP, giving him an AMI template that the developer fleshes out, and then ships off to do database number crunching or other functions in the Amazon cloud.

The PHP tool for EC2 is available for free download from http://developer.force.com. Harris, when asked why PHP was the first choice, at first seemed puzzled, because several different languages can be used on the Force.com platform. PHP is one of the most popular, he concluded, so that's where his team chooses to launch its support EC2 services. But others, including Ruby on Rails and Java, are sure to follow in short order, he said.

As additional toolkits emerge for interoperating with the Amazon cloud, they will collectively be known as Force.com Toolkit for Amazon Web Services, Harris said.

"Imagine a Force.com (the Salesforce development platform) application that needs to do massive number crunching. That's where Amazon comes in," he explained in an interview.

The ability to link the Force.com platform and Amazon cloud services is the start of a relationship.

"We're doing something interesting and that prompts more conversation" on what the two parties will be able to do together, according to an Amazon spokesmen. Amazon has been growing its "cloud" computing services, with about half of its data center bandwidth now dedicated to delivering such services as well as hosting its own book and other retail sites.

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