Salesforce.com unveils sforce tool set

By Rebecca Reid, IDG News Service |  On-demand Software

Highlighting a supporting cast of major development partners, Salesforce.com Inc. Tuesday announced the availability of sforce, a set of enterprise development tools that work with the company's hosted software and are designed to help programmers extend, build and deploy their own business applications.

San Francisco-based Salesforce.com is an ASP (application service provider) that offers hosted CRM (customer relationship management) software. With sforce, Salesforce.com is extending the "software as utility" concept to software development, offering their subscribers the ability to build new applications and services that access data stored in Salesforce's hosted applications, according to the company.

Geared toward enterprise developers, sforce will include APIs (application program interfaces) that cover basic data management functions, authentication, document management and text management as well as functions in customer-facing CRM services.

For example, if a company used Microsoft Corp.'s Word program to generate business proposals, a developer could use sforce to integrate Salesforce.com with Word, according to the company. As a result, the customer-specific information contained in the business proposals in Word would be automatically updated with information from Salesforce.com and vice versa.

Developers can use the following programming platforms to integrate applications with sforce: Microsoft's Visual Studio, Borland Software Corp.'s Jbuilder, BEA Systems Inc.'s WebLogic Workbench, and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Sun One. Sforce uses Web services standards including SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), the WSDL (Web Services Description Language), and XML (extensible markup language).

Future releases of sforce are scheduled for fall 2003 and the first quarter of 2004 and will allow developers to extend CRM functionality or create what Salesforce.com calls "client/service" applications, with custom interfaces running in the sforce hosted utility.

Salesforce.com will be officially launching sforce Tuesday night in New York and will have on hand 11 companies that will demonstrate Web-based applications they have built using sforce. The list of companies includes Business Objects SA and AvantGo Inc.

Sforce is currently available online, free of charge for Enterprise Edition customers, at http://www.sforce.com. For stand-alone applications that are built with sforce but are not integrated with existing Salesforce.com applications, the company is offering three user licences and 10M bytes of free storage. Additional per-user licenses for standalone applications are priced at US$50 per user per month, including 10M bytes of storage. Additional storage is priced at $1 per 1M bytes per month.

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