VMForce: Salesforce.com Hits With Java – But Misses on Portability

I am sure I speak for a lot of us here at SugarCRM and in the apps business in general when I say that I was waiting with considerable anticipation when rumors of a Salesforce.com and VMWare partnership began surfacing last month.

The potential here, to be honest, was huge. Was Salesforce.com FINALLY going to let people host their own version of their CRM apps on premise, in virtual private clouds, on VMWares Express cloud…in short, ANYWHERE but in is own restrictive datacenter?

The answer, it seems, is a resounding NO. Salesforce’s core CRM apps – yes, the stuff that makes it billions of dollars a year in revenue – is still locked into a multi-tenant, limited architecture.

Salesforce.com has obviously done well with this model, even if it does not fit the needs of all businesses in the world (heck, more opportunities for players like us, I say). But, when it comes to talking cloud and all that SHOULD come with it – I believe the company has fallen short. SaaS in itself is not synonymous with Cloud, period.

BUT…there is a huge market for reseller partners, ISVs, user companies, developers etc. to build ancillary applications that plug in to Salesforce.com. In the past, this process was tedious, and there was little value in doing so.  Salesforce locked you in with a proprietary code model (apex, later Force.com), and charged ridiculous partner fees of up to 45% of any transaction. UGH.

This model seems to be changing. On the plus side, leveraging the SpringSource platform (let’s face it – this is really all that VMForce is – branding VMWare’s recently acquired SpringSource tools as VMForce) which runs on Java means a more open development model. One would also hope developers will be less restricted in terms of integration/API capabilities and simply where their developed code ends up (ie – NOT in Salesforce.com’s datacenters).

This is important, because right now – if you build using Force.com – you are essentially a contractor for Salesforce.com in that your work is locked into their platform. Building on an open toolkit, and on a separate cloud model may give developers more rights of ownership, as it were, when building complementary apps. And, dare we say it, developers may be able tow rite applications that run on VMWare and tie directly in to Salesforce.com, but also SugarCRM, Zoho, Microsoft Dynamics Live, etc.

But ultimately – this changes very little about Salesforce.com’s core product. And this has little effect directly on any end-user’s deployment – save for the fact that they will hopefully have more choice and control over third party apps they decide to tie into their CRM deployment.