Feeds

Making sense of Salesforce.com

Some software, some risk

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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.

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Mathematica hits the Web
Wolfram embraces the cloud, promies private cloud cut of its number-cruncher
NHS grows a NoSQL backbone and rips out its Oracle Spine
Open source? In the government? Ha ha! What, wait ...?
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
Mozilla shutters Labs, tells nobody it's been dead for five months
Staffer's blog reveals all as projects languish on GitHub
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
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?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.