Feeds

Making sense of Salesforce.com

Some software, some risk

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

As the Salesforce.com customer base grows - it is currently 41,000 customers and 1.1 million subscribers - it becomes a more attractive target for third-party software vendors. You can market a custom Salesforce application through the official AppExchange, or create your own on-demand application and sell it to your own subscribers.

What, then, are the main reservations? Well, Benioff apparently has not read Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson's essay on "Free". As a customer, you have to be willing to pay Salesforce.com a per-subscriber annual fee forever.

As a third-party vendor, you have to be willing to pay Salesforce.com a proportion of your revenue forever. Custom objects, custom language, custom UI tags: it won't be easy to move away. This is proprietary lock-in reborn for the web.

Second, if you use any hosted application platform you lose control. If you find yourself needing some new feature that the platform doesn't implement, you have to ask nicely and wait in hope, or find some way to implement it using a mash-up or APEX code.

If you can't wrest the performance you want from the platform, you can't upgrade the hardware or introduce a stored procedure: it is what it is. As an example, I heard users complain that the security system is insufficiently fine-grained. Improvements are coming, but they have to wait.

Third, you have to trust Salesforce.com with your data, and trust it to stay available. If you run your business on Salesforce.com, and it goes offline, you may as well all go home. Now, arguably the guys at Salesforce.com will work as hard or harder than your in-house team to keep systems up and running, and in most cases have more resources to work with, but nevertheless, it is a matter of trust.

Money saver?

Fourth, this is mainly a web-application platform, though you can make offline applications or desktop applications using the API. The core user interface is functional rather than attractive, and I saw lots of flashing screens and browser messages saying "waiting for na5.salesforce.com".

Visualforce AJAX components will help. In practice, though, business users do not care that much provided they get the results they want. Still, it's a point worth noting. Microsoft argues that "software plus services" delivers a better user experience. The rejoinder is that "software plus services" removes key benefits of the software as a service model.

In the end, it comes down to a business case. It should be possible to sit down and calculate whether a move to Salesforce.com for some part of an organization's IT provision will cost money, or save money. The people I spoke to at the show though it worked for them.

This article originally appeared in ITWriting.

Copyright © 2008, ITWriting.

A freelance journalist since 1992, Tim Anderson specializes in programming and internet development topics. He has columns in Personal Computer World and IT Week, and also contributes regularly to The Register. He writes from time to time for other periodicals including Developer Network Journal Online, and Hardcopy.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sway: Microsoft's new Office app doesn't have an Undo function
Content aggregation, meet the workplace ... oh
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
NetWare sales revive in China thanks to that man Snowden
If it ain't Microsoft, it's in fashion behind the Great Firewall
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.