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Salesforce.com gets that old SOA religion

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The biggest news of the day was the announcement of Salesforce.com's SOA platform. While Salesforce.com presents its SOA solution as "making SOA as easy as building an Apex application", it's not the graphical service composer that some of the presentation slides implied. That's not to say that it's hard to use. WSDL service descriptions can be imported and used to automatically generate code stubs that can then be called from your Apex applications, treating them as packages. There's no need to build JavaScript SOAP handlers – the heavy lifting is handled by the platform. All you need to do is write Apex code that uses the new functions and methods generated from the WSDL.

There'll be a developer preview of the new SOA tools in the summer, with a full release due by the end of the year. SOA application deployment will need to wait until the full release. The service isn't limited to working with SOAP web services – and a demonstration showed just how easy it was to work with RSS feeds, using a support forum's feed contents to automatically fill out customer service forms.

Salesforce.com didn't limit the event to a keynote session. Three tracks of breakout sessions mixed details of the Apex platform with hints on marketing applications through Salesforce.com's services, before delving into the fine art of the enterprise mashup.

Reg Developer spent the afternoon in the enterprise mashup strand of breakouts. This was focused on mixing Salesforce.com with existing web services – both inside and outside your firewall.

One session covered Salesforce.com's Flex libraries, which port much of the service's existing AJAX controls to Flex's ActionScript. Sample code was shown running inside Salesforce.com HTML controls, as well as being hosted on an external site and embedded using an iframe.

Further sessions explored using Apex and AJAX to handle cross site applications, and introduced Salesforce.com's new JavaScript service proxy, which will allow mashups to work with data from multiple sites. The day was wrapped up with a look at how Salesforce.com applications can work with Google's GData APIs – a possible area for collaboration between the two web giants.

Salesforce.com's first standalone developer event certainly appeared to be a success. The only real quibble was the lack of time for the breakouts – with so much to explore, three tracks and an afternoon weren't enough to get more than a snapshot of the service's capabilities. With an increasing amount of Salesforce.com's revenues coming from outside the US, it's also an event that needs to be run in many more places than Silicon Valley. ®

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