At The Salesforce Apex of SaaS

by Michael Hickins

Salesforce.com is rounding out its ecosystem of ancillary applications with a new platform and development code.

On-demand customer relationship management (CRM) application vendor Salesforce.com  used the winter release of its flagship CRM service Salesforce SFA to formally launch Apex, a new platform and programming language.

First announced in October, the Apex platform allows corporate and in-house developers to create business applications, such as data models and objects, to manage data in an on-demand environment.

Salesforce.com will host the new applications and the data centers needed to capture information, which means that customers will not be burdened with those infrastructure costs.

The Apex platform includes a workflow engine for managing collaboration of data between users, a user interface model to handle forms and other interactions and a Web services API for programmatic access, mash-ups and integration with other applications and data.

The Web services API will make it possible to access and manage complex data relationships -- such as a set of information about an account, all the products they have bought and all of their contacts -- in a single request.

The real-time messaging and integration feature allows the on-demand CRM application to notify other applications running in an enterprise environment, including middleware, message busses or software applications, of new business events like the creation of a new customer or the closing of a sales opportunity.

The Apex launch represents the next step for Salesforce.com in expanding into being the hub of an on-demand applications universe from being a simple CRM application vendor.

In addition to allowing developers to create and expand on existing on-demand applications, the platform will also enable them to offer these new extensions and applications to other Salesforce.com customers on the AppExchange platform.

"By making the Apex platform and programming language available, Salesforce.com is enabling the ecosystem to lead the way for the next level of innovation in on-demand," said Salesforce.com chairman and CEO Marc Benioff in a statement.

Forrester analyst Liz Herbert noted that the real-time messaging feature will make Salesforce.com a more important player in enterprise environments, which tend to have a greater variety of on-premise and on-demand applications than smaller or mid-size firms.

"It's a big step forward in integration capabilities," she told internetnews.com in October, when the platform was first announced.

Salesforce.com is also giving developers an early look at the beta version of the new Apex programming code today, and expects to make the beta available to customers later this year.

The Java-like code, also announced last fall, will allow developers to customize the core features and functionality of their Salesforce.com applications.

Vendors of on-premise software, like SAP , have noted that SaaS  applications are limited to a one-size-fits-all approach that is not appropriate for complex organizations, because they are based on a single code platform,.

The specter of seeing Salesforce.com address this gap has therefore raised blood pressures throughout the industry.

The winter release of the SFA application includes a number of enhancements intended to improve user productivity.

Salesforce Console, built using AJAX, enables users to create a completely custom desktop and see more information in a single view. Since information is grouped in multiple windows, user productivity increases because of the single-click access to all the information they need.

Salesforce also added an AJAX-based calendar enabling users to access records through the use of hovers. The AJAX calendar also includes pop-up reminders and enhanced territory management allowing customers to assign accounts based on predetermined territory rules.

  This article was originally published on Tuesday Jan 16th 2007
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