Salesforce.com's Apex Code: Good Idea or Superfluous Code?: Page 2

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The Value Proposition

According to John Radcliffe, research vice president of CRM at Gartner Inc., salesforce.com’s Apex platform has been based on the use of metadata, interpreted at run time, to define applications. While this aspect provides overall flexibility and ease from an upgrade and maintenance viewpoint, it may not allow users to create all the functionality or have the level of granularity that they may need.

For Radcliffe’s part, the primary value proposition Apex Code offers is that it provides developers the ability to add procedural code in a variety of locations and that this code is transactional in nature. Moreover, Apex Code allows salesforce.com and salesforce.com partner developers to create richer applications on the Apex platform than they were able to in the past, when the base code was not readily available.

“You can write stored procedures in it and expose them as Web services. In some ways it reminds me of why Oracle introduced PL/SQL in the late ‘80s to complement SQL,” adds Radcliffe.

However, Radcliffe notes that a traditional procedural language is not as easy to convert into something else as metadata is, and so a degree of “lock in” occurs. Companies like Oracle are finding this to be the case with PL/SQL-based stored procedures as they move towards a Fusion Apps Java environment, he says.

Setting the Stage

For her part, IDC’s Rogers says that salesforce.com’s road map for Apex Code is akin to its road map for the original salesforce.com application and everything else that has followed it up to this point.

“They introduce some functionality and then build on top of it. What might be available in the future on this kind of environment is yet to be seen, but it is setting the stage for that kind of offering and capability. And giving a little bit more can allow an enterprise that is trying to integrate into salesforce a little more leverage or latitude,” Rogers says.

According to Rogers, salesforce.com’s initial target audience for Apex Code is its partner community and its salesforce.com customers. Through them, she says, the company will get a better sense of the complexity, scalability, and deployment capabilities of an application built with Apex Code and as a result, will be able to better judge Apex Code’s ease of use, along with its limitations.

While Apex Code may not offer the complexity some developers will need, it does offer the ability for users to develop certain applications, particularly those centering on the use of forms, around the salesforce.com on-demand model without having to link to external environments, Rogers says.

“The vision that [salesforce.com is] painting in the future is that you already have a foundation of a solution right here. You have a user interface, sign-on, navigation, reporting, a lot of basics that any application that hooks into salesforce or leverages it can take advantage of,” Rogers says. “That is its whole promise.”

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