Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/05/22/salesforce_no_google_yet/

Salesforce.com gets that old SOA religion

Cosies up to Adobe, but doesn't get down with Google (yet)

By Simon Bisson

Posted in Developer, 22nd May 2007 10:54 GMT

The elephant in the room was one of the presenters at Salesforce.com's one day developer conference in Silicon Valley yesterday.

With rumours of an upcoming Google partnership sparking financial news, the company's CEO Marc Benioff joked that he wasn't going to talk about the rumours – though he did proceed to hint that there may be some truth in them.

Certainly, Google's presence could be felt throughout the event, with keynote demonstrations showing Salesforce.com's platform working with Google's APIs.

Most Salesforce.com events focus on the end user and the casual developer who wants to work with the software as service pioneer web forms. This one was different, and looked at some of the service's newer developer-centric features.

Describing the Salesforce.com platform as a "catalyst for change", Benioff walked through the history of the business, pointing out that the founding developers had delivered many of the infrastructure and platform services needed to run applications on demand before Salesforce.com's first contact management tool went public.

Benioff's keynote showed off several applications that had been built on the Salesforce.com AppExchange, and highlighted new features in the Apex development toolset (while hinting at further developer features that would be announced at the company's Dreamforce event in autumn).

If the Google relationship was off the table, Salesforce.com's growing links with Adobe were a big part of the keynote story. Adobe's chief software architect Kevin Lynch showed off Apollo and Flex, along with a set of Apollo applications that had been designed to work with Salesforce.com's APIs.

Lynch was typically enthusiastic about what he referred to as the "native integration of web applications with the desktop computer". Benioff agreed, and pointed out that "once you have a client, you need a server – and that's what Salesforce.com offers".

Part of the keynote, led by EVP Technology Parker Harris and VP developer relations Adam Gross showed off Apex and the Flex developer platform. They also gave some insight into Salesforce.com's own development processes, revealing that agile development methodologies - specifically a modified version of Scrum – are at the heart of how they build their platform.

The biggest news of the day was the announcement of Salesforce.com's SOA platform. While Salesforce.com presents its SOA solution as "making SOA as easy as building an Apex application", it's not the graphical service composer that some of the presentation slides implied. That's not to say that it's hard to use. WSDL service descriptions can be imported and used to automatically generate code stubs that can then be called from your Apex applications, treating them as packages. There's no need to build JavaScript SOAP handlers – the heavy lifting is handled by the platform. All you need to do is write Apex code that uses the new functions and methods generated from the WSDL.

There'll be a developer preview of the new SOA tools in the summer, with a full release due by the end of the year. SOA application deployment will need to wait until the full release. The service isn't limited to working with SOAP web services – and a demonstration showed just how easy it was to work with RSS feeds, using a support forum's feed contents to automatically fill out customer service forms.

Salesforce.com didn't limit the event to a keynote session. Three tracks of breakout sessions mixed details of the Apex platform with hints on marketing applications through Salesforce.com's services, before delving into the fine art of the enterprise mashup.

Reg Developer spent the afternoon in the enterprise mashup strand of breakouts. This was focused on mixing Salesforce.com with existing web services – both inside and outside your firewall.

One session covered Salesforce.com's Flex libraries, which port much of the service's existing AJAX controls to Flex's ActionScript. Sample code was shown running inside Salesforce.com HTML controls, as well as being hosted on an external site and embedded using an iframe.

Further sessions explored using Apex and AJAX to handle cross site applications, and introduced Salesforce.com's new JavaScript service proxy, which will allow mashups to work with data from multiple sites. The day was wrapped up with a look at how Salesforce.com applications can work with Google's GData APIs – a possible area for collaboration between the two web giants.

Salesforce.com's first standalone developer event certainly appeared to be a success. The only real quibble was the lack of time for the breakouts – with so much to explore, three tracks and an afternoon weren't enough to get more than a snapshot of the service's capabilities. With an increasing amount of Salesforce.com's revenues coming from outside the US, it's also an event that needs to be run in many more places than Silicon Valley. ®