Salesforce.com is developing an on-demand programming language tailored to its platform, a move that it hopes will spur the creation of more third-party applications for its AppExchange network and aid customers seeking advanced customization options.
Called Apex, the new language is scheduled to be unveiled Monday at Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference. Apex is on track for beta testing in first-quarter 2007, and general availability is expected in the first half of 2007.
Apex has a Java-like syntax. The language will let developers create add-on applications and modify their Salesforce.com deployments by customizing features and adding new ones.
"If you wanted a new quoting module for Salesforce that did shipping and warehousing, your route today would be to wait for us to build it," said Adam Gross, Salesforce.com's vice president of developer marketing. "Now people in our community will have the same power to create a new application that our developers have."
Powerful programming tools bring in their wake the risk of complexity and broken applications -- problems antithetical to Salesforce.com's ease-of-use pitch for its hosted applications. Gross said the company has taken steps to guard against developers using Apex to inadvertently wreak havoc with their Salesforce.com deployments.
"What we've created is kind of analogous to a multitenant virtual machine. When Apex code is being executed, it's being executed in a governed fashion. It's being constantly monitored for what it's doing and what resources it's consuming," Gross said. "There's nothing you can create that will in any way jeopardize the system or any other user in this multitenant system."
Today, Web applications are being created in a variety of languages, including Java, C#, PHP and Ruby. One Salesforce.com user, software guides publisher Mike Schinkel, moaned in frustration in his blog at the prospect of another programming language to master.
"I can program in more languages than I have fingers," Schinkel wrote. "Why not leverage one of the many excellent programming languages that already exist?"
Salesforce.com also is preparing a new incubation program for partners building applications for AppExchange, Salesforce.com's marketplace for on-demand software. In early 2007, the company plans to launch its first AppExchange Central lab in San Mateo, Calif., near its San Francisco headquarters. AppExhange Central will allow companies to rent office space at a site staffed with Salesforce.com technical staffers ready to assist in AppExchange application development.
Right now, Salesforce.com offers about 400 applications in its AppExchange network, 70 created internally and the rest built by outside partners. Further AppExchange Central incubators will be set up worldwide over the next year, company executives said.