Salesforce.com Pushes Apex Beyond CRM


Broadens front against Microsoft, Oracle, other platform providers.


Salesforce.com says it will offer up its Apex platform for development of hosted applications that may have nothing to do with the company's bread-and-butter CRM.

"You can now purchase Apex without CRM," said Ariel Kelman, director of Apex product marketing for the San Francisco-based company.

What developers get for their fee is access to Salesforce.com's multi-tenancy infrastructure and visual point-and-click tools with which to build their applications. Also included, the Apex Web Services API, analytics and the Apex code language. The latter can be previewed at this this company site.

"We've democratized app development. This [toolset] will suit anyone from a non-techie system administrator to a serious Java developer. You get point and click tools we provide that let people build their database, screens and business logic," Kelman told CRN.

The point-and-click tools for building database, screens and business logic. The user can ten extend those applications using a variety of development environment and techniques including AJAX, with a new "Flex" toolkit Salesforce.com and Adobe Systems collaborated on.

The goal of the platform edition, available now, is to eliminate as much hand coding as possible so "you can focus on the fun stuff vs. the mundane things like security, database tuning and backups," Kelman said.

Salesforce.com has been expanding its brand beyond its CRM and sales force automation (SFA) roots for some time. In so doing, it is also broadening the front in which it competes with such prodigious competitors as Microsoft, Oracle and SAP.

In recent months the San Francisco company has said it will enter the collaboration/web conferencing realm, wealth management. It already had a so-called OEM version which it encouraged third-party ISVs to use. It was not immediately clear how this platform edition deliverable differs from that version.

The battle for business apps market share has become almost generational, with the afore mentioned legacy providers working from their on-premises software base while coming up with some services offerings as upstart Salesforce.com says that software-as-a-service (SaaS) is the only way to go.
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Narinder Singh, founder of Appirio, a San Francisco-based Salesforce.com partner, is aboard, saying this new offering will help his company expand its own applications' footprint on Apex.

"We exclusively use Salesforce.com and Apex. Our collective team has a long an exhaustive history of using development platforms like BEA, SAP, Oracle, webMethods, IBM, etc. While they have their pros/cons, none of them provides a way to develop multi-tenant On-Demand applications," Singh said via e-mail.

So why focus on Salesforce.com? "Developing and launching applications to the full SAP or Oracle customer base would require ten to twenty times the effort, in order to cover all existing versions, operating systems, and customizations deployed to each customer," Singh wrote in response to questions.