Force.com leverages Salesforce.coms Apex code. Salesforce.coms integration platform capabilities are based on a set of application protocol interfaces (APIs), design specifications, service provisioning and support requirements. Force.com enables ISVs to build their applications more quickly by allowing them to focus on the features and functions. Force.com provides ISVs and developers the ingredients they need to build and deliver SaaS business applications.
Force.com also supports an ISVs service delivery requirements. By encouraging a wide array of ISVs to build their applications on Force.com and link their applications to the AppExchange, Salesforce.com is also expanding its reach into additional application markets.
Salesforce.com recently teamed with Google, which has its own development platform, to enable their platforms to interoperate with each other and extending their reach into additional market segments. Other SaaS companies have also initiated platform strategies. NetSuite has created a NetFlex platform that enables ISVs and channel partners to cater NetSuites applications to specific industry requirements. In conjunction with its technological foundation, NetSuites platform is enhanced by its growing ecosystem of third-party relationships.
Amazon has also helped to expand the parameters of the platform market with its Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) which provides a low-cost development toolkit and test-bed environment for ISVs and user organizations. Amazons S3 offering gives these developers access to the same data storage infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own global network of web sites. This offering, and other web-based development environments, have resurrected the idea of utility computing which is now more popularly referred to as cloud computing.
In the same way that organizations evaluated legacy application vendors based on the strengthen of their technical capabilities and the breadth of their portfolios and partner network, user organizations should now judge SaaS vendors based on their web-based functionality, ease of use, strength of their integration and development capabilities, and partner ecosystems.
This will become particularly important as user organizations seek to acquire SaaS solutions to satisfy a multitude of business requirements. Rather than subscribe to stand-alone point solutions from a wide array of SaaS vendors, centering on a smaller set of strategic SaaS sources will reduce the amount of time, effort and expense required to pull the various solutions together. It will also permit the user to reduce their time to value and leverage the platforms to develop their own customized solutions to meet their unique business needs.
Jeff Kaplan is Managing Director of THINKstrategies (www.thinkstrategies.com), an independent consulting firm focused on the business implications of the on-demand services movement.