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The Battle for the Cloud

December 30, 2008

I was reading this article on eWeek Kafi sent today, where a writer gave his opinion on several predictions by Appirio mainly based around cloud computing. The article is interesting and I recommend briefly going over it, but here I’m going to focus on a couple of the points I found pretty interesting:

The first point, regarding integrations between clouds is a really good point as this is how you can add value to your cloud without having to create new functionality yourself. As everyone has seen with the popularity of Facebook and Salesforce.com third party apps, the only way to expand in Web 2.0 is to let your users provide content, and developers are the users of clouds. Google App Engine and Amazon have opened up access to other clouds as well, and I’m sure Microsoft’s Azure will provide similar functionality to its users. In fact, I think Microsoft will really put a lot of its resources in getting the cloud strategy correct and providing a straightforward path for current Visual Studio developers.

The next interesting point is about the rise of server-less medium to large enterprises, and I absolutely believe this is the logical result of going down the cloud computing path. With companies like Terremark that can host your IT infrastructure on their cloud, saving you CapEx, space, and energy, there really is a compelling reason to not have servers in the enterprise except for really specialized appliance-type servers like firewalls, VPNs, proxies and so on.

I also wanted to mention the point about private clouds, I do think as the technology becomes more mature that term will make about as much sense as private electric grids, you really don’t need them unless you’re doing some pretty crazy things.

Next, the point is made that BI (business intelligence) will be the next big push for SaaS-plays. While I do agree that their is certainly a lot of activity going on there from companies like Oracle as well as Salesforce, I think that other areas of the enterprise like ESBs, finance, and healthcare will experience just as much conversion to the cloud.

Finally I think you’ll find that the IT department in the enterprise and software development shops will often be the first to switch over their infrastructure to the cloud, and we’re experiencing that ourselves at Ayoka as most of our servers and applications are in the cloud already. What have your experiences been regarding or issues surrounding moving apps and infrastructure to the cloud?

Are you ready to build the next killer cloud app?

December 3, 2008

I attended a webinar today hosted by Salesforce.com about their new Sites platform, something I’ve mentioned earlier on this blog and which is generating quite a bit of interest in the cloud-computing space. There was a bit of additional information I got from the webinar, including forecasted availability (GA release summer of next year), initial pricing information, and a demo of how to setup a simple site. It seems like creating a site from existing Force.com APEX pages is really easy, and getting started with a site costs nothing additional. Once you reach a certain number of page views (starting at 50K, depending on your subscription) then you pay for that additional usage. Finally, they introduced a new developer challenge for anyone who creates a Force.com Site to compete in. It’s a pretty cool way to advertise the platform as well as the developers creating interesting apps for it. So, if you have that amazing idea for a Force.com site, why not tell us about it and maybe we can help you develop it?

Should you let Salesforce.com host your website?

November 3, 2008

WSJ reported about the new Force.com Sites feature, which allows companies to create public facing sites and applications on the same platform and technology you’re already using for your CRM, Partner Management, Marketing, and other Force.com based applications. I think this is a really interesting move by Salesforce and is going to be powerful play against the other cloud-based giants out there including Amazon, Microsoft’s new Azure platform, and Google App Engine. Here’s why I think this is a good move by Salesforce, how it compares to the other cloud-based platforms, and why you might or might not want to take advantage of the new capabilities.

First, Salesforce already has a really strong user base that has a lot invested in the Force.com platform. They’ve got critical data and logic built up over many years, and with Sites they can now expose that information in ways that make sense and deliver business value. Sure, you can already do that using Apex and web services, but when everything is already integrated as one package it promotes collaboration and less resistance. You can bet that Salesforce.com and savvy partners will provide some really interesting apps through AppExchange that will make putting together enterprise solutions a simple affair.

Of course, vendor lockin is a big concern, and with Sites you are definitely being locked in to the Force.com’s platform in a way that is much stronger than alternative platforms. However, looking at the main consumer of this platform, the current Salesforce user, this should not be a big problem. If I’m already trusting my data, logic, and business transactions to Salesforce then benefits of quick turnaround, data reliability, security, and uptime will completely outweigh the downside of being locked in to the platform. Also, every other cloud platform or PaaS has some amount of lockin, this one just takes it to a whole new level.

So should you seriously consider this platform for your site? If you already have invested into Salesforce and Force.com, you probably should consider it, for all the sames reasons you went with a SaaS based CRM in the first place. Even with most enterprises’ heterogenous environment, it may make sense to use it to deliver features quickly and act as that ‘glue code’ that is usually spread throughout the company intranet. I’d love to get your thought or comments!