Enterprise System Spectator blog: ERP and enterprise system vendor evaluation, selection, and implementation.

The Enterprise System Spectator

Monday, April 23, 2007

Salesforce.com unbundling its platform from its apps

Over the past few years, salesforce.com has been gradually morphing itself from an on-demand CRM vendor to a platform for software-as-a-service (SaaS) generally. It started by first allowing extensive customer-specific customization of its CRM applications and integration with legacy or third-party systems. Then it provided a complete development environment, including test capabilities separate from production. Then it opened up its SaaS platform to third-party developers to write complementary applications. This week it announced the next logical step: it is allowing customers to buy access to its platform without buying its CRM application.

Salesforce.com Platform Edition allows customers to take advantage of other applications in its AppExchange marketplace, or, it allows customers to start from scratch and write their own custom applications. Details on Platform Edition are on the salesforce.com website.

The evolution of salesforce.com further enhances software-as-a-service as a viable alternative to traditional on-premise software. The only drawback to this approach I see is that it ties the entire IT infrastructure of the customer to salesforce.com. If you think vendor lock-in is a problem today with traditional vendors, such as Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP, imagine what it will be like when your entire technology stack--from hardware, OS, database, and application--is tied to a single provider.

I'm a big fan of SaaS, but I still haven't figured out how to get around the vendor lock-in problem.

Related posts
IT services in a SaaS world
Salesforce.com to allow customization of its hosted service
Salesforce.com's AppExchange proving its viability for developers
Computer Economics: The Business Case for Software as a Service

by Frank Scavo, 4/23/2007 07:36:00 AM | permalink | e-mail this!

 Reader Comments:

I understand what you are saying but wouldn't it be better to have the all your work on the same plateform and have the entire technology stack tied to a single provider?
Salesforce.com is acquiring other OnDemand Content Management SaaS company. To read more, visit Salesforce.com Steps into the Main Arena.
Mehnaz, I would say, having a single platform is better, but not a single provider. The concern I have is with vendor lock-in: tying the customer to Salesforce.com in a way that makes it extraordinarily difficult to migrate to a different provider. Salesforce.com has developed a sophisticated platform, but unfortunately, its use of a proprietary language (APEX) makes it virtually impossible for a client to migrate that code to a different platform.

If someone could build a SaaS platform (as sophisticated as that of Salesforce.com) on open standards, or even better, on open-source, that would be a killer-app. Unfortunately, such a scenario is not in the best interest of the vendors, which prefer to lock-in their customers to their own platforms.

What we need is something along the lines of "Open Source on Demand" or "Open Source as a Service."
Agree. As the world moves toward open standards, salesforce.com comes up with a proprietary system to trap their customers. salesforce.com customer support is virtually nonexistent and it is extraordinarily difficult to even capture your own data should you decide to migrate. It would be extremely dangerous to depend on a single SaaS provider with proprietary code as our salesforce.com experience has demonstrated. At least with an on-premise system, your own data is not held hostage by a single provider.
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