Salesforce launches Platform Edition as a base for SaaS development

Hosted software firm Salesforce.com has launched a Platform Edition, allowing corporate users to use its Apex technology platform without subscribing to its core customer relationship management (CRM) service.

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Salesforce offers development tools to non-CRM users

Hosted software firm Salesforce.com has launched its new Platform Edition, allowing corporate users to use its Apex technology platform without subscribing to its core customer relationship management (CRM) service.

The announcement marks a shift in strategy for Salesforce.com, aimed at opening its technologies to a much larger potential customer base.

The new Salesforce Platform Edition will give users access to Salesforce's Apex programming language, its integration technology and other tools, without the need for a CRM service licence. The Apex programming tools can also be used to customise and integrate applications purchased through Salesforce's AppExchange software market without the CRM licence.

Ariel Kelman, director of Apex platform product marketing at Salesforce.com, said: "Prior to Salesforce Platform Edition, customers had to purchase a CRM subscription to run any of our apps or our partner's AppExchange applications.”

Kelman said the new offering was aimed at users in human resources, research and development, finance and other corporate departments that did not need CRM applications.

The platform edition includes Salesforce ODOS, an on-demand operating system to run multiple applications within a single instance of the Salesforce platform. The operating system includes a single model for data, security and user interface.

The new launch marks the arrival of Salesforce as a platform company, a direction the firm has hinted at in the past but never expressed outright. The first steps were taken when the company announced AppExchange, which allowed third-party software vendors to plug into the Salesforce CRM. Then, last year, the company unveiled its own development language, Apex Code.

If successful, Platform Edition will extend Salesforce's reach far beyond its current status as a CRM application provider, challenging many of the traditional enterprise software vendors. Until now, vendors such as SAP and Oracle have claimed that best of breed applications require a central core or platform – such as SAP’s NetWeaver or Oracle Fusion – to plug into.

The software as a service (SaaS) model is now growing in popularity, but is considered a bit riskier than traditional applications, mainly because of an ad hoc feel, with each vendor offering its own take on SaaS.

The Salesforce platform could give SaaS applications the central hub that has been missing, improving their deployment, integration and management.

But not everyone sees the solution as the right strategy for an enterprise. Marc Osofsky, vice president of marketing at systems integrator Optaros, noted that a lot of companies were pushing platforms. "The challenge is if you pick one you are trapped to what that platform can provide," he said.

Osofsky said companies would be better served by standardising at the component level. "If you want to change, you just throw out that component,”

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