Steve and I met with the good people at Force.com this morning to get an update on their approach to the Cloud Computing market and to hear their vision for the future.
I’d already carried out some REPAMA analysis of Force’s marketing proposition and, just like I found when I looked at Oracle’s ESB proposition,I was very impressed. With some vendors’ marketing propositions I have to spend a long time inferring what their strategic marketing strategy is, for others the strategy is so well communicated to their prospects through their out-bound marketing communications that my job is made easy.
And so it was with Force.com…
Unlike complex on-premise .Net and Java development tools, Force.com is half the cost and five times as fast
I’m paraphrasing and simplifying of course but that is about the nub of the proposition. It’s repeated over and over again and as we found out this morning there appears to be some substance behind the claims. That said, neither benefit metric (cost nor time) can be impartially validated. But that doesn’t really matter. I know, I know, of course it ‘technically’ matters but this is about market perception where Force.com was first to grab a space in prospects’ minds and that will be tough if not impossible for other vendors/providers to wrestle back.
Force.com is signing up end user customers and ISVs in ever-increasing numbers and with their SFDC subscribers subsidising the provision of the infrastructure to their Force.com platform users they don’t have the set-up costs and growing pains of some of their potential rivals. It’s an impressive operation and one that I’m sure we’ll touch on in a bit more detail in the coming months. But taking off my marketing analyst hat and putting on my technology analyst hat for a moment, I have one concern about these off-premise platform as a service propositions. And the people we met from Force.com were, as yet (although I’m meeting with one of their techies who I know from a previous life for a coffee this evening) unable to answer satisfactorily, and that concerned workflow and process orchestration.
How does a process that is developed with/within Force.com play a role in an externally managed process/service orchestration or workflow? The answer for process orchestration appears to be that any fragment of a Force.com application can be exposed as a web service which means that you have enough granular control (and associated complexity by the way) to do anything you want. But what about an off-premise managed workflow that relies on providing UI from a number of different on-premise and off-premise systems to achieve the result? Can Force.com UI and logic integrate into that sort of external situation? We’ll see.
Anyway, as I said I was impressed as much by what I heard as what I had seen about the way the company executes. On top of it all they have taken cloud computing from the theory and made it real for many users. So, as I said, hats off to them.