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Salesforce.com parks cloudy database over Ellison's head

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Dreamforce 2010 Larry Ellison's got a new database competitor in the form of Salesforce.com, with the launch of Database.com from his one-time protégé Marc Benioff.

Salesforce.com is going head-to-head against Oracle, as Benioff plans today to unveil his new venture. It's a relational database in the sky, delivered as a service and sold via subscription rather than software license. Database.com is planned for 2011.

Database.com is Salesforce.com's existing multi-tenant Oracle-based database, used under the covers of Salesforce.com and Force.com, but with a new name, a separate URL and features targeting admins and devs spanning different languages and deploying to fixed, mobile and cloud.

It will be a fully relational service, with features such as field types, triggers and stored procedures, a query language and enterprise search.

Developers will be able to write to Database.com using a set of toolkits, which - when described to us - sound like plug-ins to existing IDEs. Toolkits are planned for Java, .Net, Ruby, PHP, Amazon EC2, Google AppEngine, Google Data, Microsoft's Azure, iOS and Android, Facebook, Twitter, and Adobe's Flash and Flex.

The tools mean, for example, an iPhone app dev could write native iPhone apps in Objective C, with the apps running on the iPhone while connecting to Database.com.

Eric Stahl, senior director of product marketing, told The Reg the toolkits would let you add code to your apps so they can call Database.com. Singling out Apple, Stahl said: "You use the iOS SDK and we give you code that you add to the app and you make a native Objective C calls."

Pricing, meanwhile, is not based on the number of databases you own, but on the number of records and transactions instead.

Database.com will be free for up to three users with 100,000 records and 50,000 transactions per month. It will be priced at $10 per month for each set of 100,000 records beyond that, and $10 per month for each set of 150,000 transactions beyond that.

User identity, authentication and low-level security access controls are added as part of Database.com Enterprise Services priced at $10 per user per month.

Salesforce.com's going to great effort on Database.com. It's bought the URL but is not putting a date on delivery of the service in 2011, until it's refined it.

The unveiling today at Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, California, comes after Benioff and Ellison crossed swords over cloud services earlier this year.

Ellison unveiled his latest Exadata server at Oracle's OpenWorld he launched by knocking Salesforce, calling it one of two possible models of cloud computing. See if you can guess who's got the right model and who's got the wrong model in this scenario.

Benioff shot back saying the cloud does not come in a box - the box in question being Ellison's handsomely priced Exadata server. Larry, who likes his hardware, retorted that Salesforce.com uses a multi-tenancy architecture 15 years out of date and has a "horrible" security model.

We asked about the timing for today's unveiling - any connection with the recent clash of handbags? Stahl told us diplomatically: "We are looking to enter new markets."

Is Salesforce.com going after Oracle or MySQL customers? It wouldn't be the first to chase MySQL customers, as the number of MySQL service companies is expanding to take advantage of uncertainty over the database, and lure development and support dollars away from Oracle.

"I wouldn't split by which database product they are using," Stahl said. "I think more in terms of people looking for a faster, cheaper better way to build enterprise applications and who are moving to the cloud."

And it all started so nicely. Ellison was an early investor in Salesforce.com, started by ex-Oracle employee Benioff, putting $2m of his own money into the company. ®

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