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Salesforce.com bitten by the ALM bug

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Salesforce.com is to bring application lifecycle management (ALM) practices and safeguards to its on-demand platform.

The company today unveils new metadata APIs, an update to its Eclipse-based integrated development environment (IDE), and storage services capable of integrating with any "standards-based" source-code repository.

Of course, standards-based is a relative term, and Salesforce.com was unable to say what standards it meant. Out-of-the door, though, Salesforce.com is talking about integration with Project Hosting on Google Code.

Project Hosting is one tiny aspect of ALM, however, Ariel Kelman, the company’s senior director of platform product marketing, told Reg Dev. He expects ALM to emerge as a "pretty big growth area" on Salesforce.com's AppExchange.

Salesforce.com is in talks with vendors that are already providing ALM, he says, but he's not ready just yet to name names.

"This is about not changing what you can build with our platform, but making our platform easier to align with existing IT standards processes and tools," he said.

Salesforce.com's overtures to ALM vendors reflects the latest industry trends to inject some process into building and "mashing" applications and services, all the better to meet corporate rules on governance, security and accountability. Such services cannot simply be thrown together by novices, whatever the hype - mash-ups require the traditional disciplines of application development to enforce quality, security and re-use, and to also hit deadlines.

Kelman emphasised that Salesforce.com is not becoming an ALM vendor, but the company's annual conference in San Francisco, today (Thursday) his boss, Marc Benioff, is expected to unveil developer previews of the code intended to bring those full-time ALM vendors onboard.

Benioff will announce the Force.com metadata APIs that provide access to the database schema, Apex code and Visualforce user interfaces that comprice the company's software architecture. The Eclipse-based Force.com IDE has been updated with support for Visualforce and the metadata APIs in order to access code and schema, and to integrate with source-code control systems. Also being announced is Force.com Code Share, to store definitions of Force.com applications in source code and deploy applications from production environments and the existing Force.com sandbox.

According to Kelman, the metadata APIs will allow developers to create and update tables and fields, and work with customizations to Salesforce.com's software and services from users and third-parties on Salesforce.com's AppExchange.

Also expected today is new pricing for infrequently used AppExchange applications. Salesforce.com will announce some 100 of its 750 applications can now be used for $5 per log-in, with an introductory offer of $0.99 per log in through until the end of 2008. That's in addition to the usual unlimited number of log-ins for $50 per month.

The move is designed to facilitate use of applications, such as vacation or laptop requests, that complement the company's core customer relationship management (CRM) service.®

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