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Microsoft "scared" of clouds

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Dreamforce 2008 In a world where "software as a service" was looking dated, Salesforce.com's has gone hip with Facebook and Amazon while taking swipes at Microsoft's attempts to be cool.

Salesforce.com's chief executive Marc Benioff has unveiled Force.com for Facebook to integrate 260,000 of the social networks' applications with business applications inside the Salesforce.com platform. Also announced was Force.com for Amazon Web Services to connect Salesforce.com's applications written in Apex to PHP, Perl, and Ruby apps in the Amazon development and storage cloud. Both are available today, for free.

In a nod to businesses, Force.com for Sites was announced to build web-based applications in Salesforce.com's Apex language and host them inside Salesfore.com data centers. Force.com for Sites is available as a preview and will be part of existing subscriptions, according to Benioff. There was no date on when Force.com for Sites will be available.

The trio of cloud announcements came a week after business applications rival Microsoft formally unveiled its yet-to-launch cloud service, Azure Services Platform.

The trio were used to update Salesforce.com's traditional "end of software" pitch at Dreamforce while taking a few shots at Microsoft and Azure.

Interestingly, Salesforce.com's traditional "software as a service" mantra was jettisoned, mentioned just once during Benioff's 90-minute Dreamforce demo where he talked cloud, cloud, cloud. SaaS is now part of the cloud along with two other Salesforce.com staples: multitenancy and pay-as-you go.

Microsoft is "scared" of cloud computing services from Salesforce.com, Facebook, Amazon and Google because it means the end of its business model, Benioff said.

"Why are you using Lotus Notes and .NET and SQL Server and SharePoint to deliver all your web sits, when you can do it all with point and click and [host it] using our multi tenancy architecture?" he asked Dreamforce delegates who - it seems - still buy software.

"Microsoft had to make their big vaporware announcement last week because these things are happening, they are scared to death - this is the end of software."

Benioff said Salesforce.com wants to run all your applications, instead of having customers use Salesforce.come for just customer relationship management (CRM) and then adopting "out-dated" applications like Microsoft's SharePoint for their intranets and employ hosting from third parties to host them that lack disaster recovery.

"I saw more software creeping into the organization," Benioff said of customers building and running web apps. I said: 'This must stop'," he said. "Now you can run your whole web in our cloud."

Driving the Facebook and Amazon announcements is the ability for Salesforce.com's Apex programming language - used to build Salesforce.com hosed applications - to talk to third parties' APIs and libraries. Apex was demonstrated talking to the Facebook APIs and mark-up, treating them as native code. The demonstration showed a job ad that was hosted on a Dell web page and that was served up inside a person's Facebook wall instead.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, made some vague guarantees about the security of the set up, while pointing to the potential for ISVs: 28,000 Facebook applications attract 10,000 users. She didn't say over what timescale these applications pull in these numbers or dwell on the fact this is just 10 per cent of Facebook applications.

Also demonstrated was Apex talking to Perl libraries inside an application hosed on Amazon's EC2. The Amazon toolkit uses Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) to talk to language runtimes, configurations, and connections to associated API libraries inside EC2. Salesforce.com claimed integration between its Visualforce user interface and libraries in PHP, Perl, and Ruby. An Amazon S3 toolkit wraps the Amazon S3 API and access methods to makes available within Apex code.

Force.com for Sites, released as a preview, is more straight-forward build and hosting set up. Sites lets you build versions of Salesforce.com applications using Apex for the web, register a domain name, use CNAME domain pointing and add RSS feeds.

Applications are hosted on the Salesforce.com platform, complete with multi-tenancy, fail over, and security. Being browser based Force.com applications can be delivered to iPhones, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile devices in addition to PCs, Benioff said.

Sites will come with the Group, Professional, Enterprise, and Unlimited Salesforce.com subscriptions, with up to 50,000, 250,000, 500,000 and 1,000,000 monthly page views respectively. Additional monthly page views will be available at $1,000 a month for up to 1,000,000 additional monthly page views and $3,000 a month, for up to 5,000,000 additional monthly page views. ®

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