Salesforce.com looks to be a developer destination with Heroku Ruby buy

The company lays out its platform-as-a-service plans in hopes of appealing to next-generation app developers.

Salesforce.com, with its addition of Heroku's Ruby cloud application platform, wants to position itself as a destination for next-generation application developers. But rival cloud vendor Engine Yard believes the Heroku/Salesforce.com pairing, while validating Ruby on the cloud, is the wrong way to go.

Salesforce.com's $212 million acquisition of Heroku was one of several announcements made this morning at the company's Dreamforce 2010 conference in San Francisco. The company also promoted its Cloud 2 concept involving social, mobile, and real-time computing and announced a partnership for IT service management with BMC. Salesforce.com also enunciated its vision of eight different Salesforce.com  clouds, which includes the Database.com platform announced this week as well as Heroku.

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"Heroku is really designed by developers for developers. It's a true development environment," Salesforce.com CEO Mark Benioff said. He also cited Ruby as "the true language of Cloud 2." Ruby on Rails is supported by Heroku as well. The acquisition, added Parker Harris, Salesforce.com executive vice president, "puts us solidly in the platform-as-a-service market."

Heroku powers more than 105,000 Web applications. Salesforce.com argues that its Heroku property, combined with its VMforce Java cloud, makes the company the "unparalleled" platform provider for Cloud 2 applications. But at Engine Yard, which also offers cloud services for Ruby on Rails applications, an official was dismissive of Salesforce's grand plans.

"No respectable developer wants to be on Salesforce.com. This could drive even more developers [to Engine Yard's platform]," said Tom Mornini, Engine Yard CTO and co-founder, in an email. "Ruby is the language for the cloud. If you are building apps, and you are building on the cloud, you have to build with Ruby," Mornini said. The deal validates that, he said. "However, both Salesforce.com and Heroku's multi-tenancy approach is the wrong way to go. We believe virtualization is a better value for any type of company that has applications."

The acquisition, said analyst Al Hilwa of IDC, is about Salesforce.com's desire to build a fuller platform. "Firms that provide a hosted platform for Ruby represented the kind of new application workloads that Salesforce.com hopes to attract to its own cloud offering. In theory, Heroku customers will be candidates for Database.com, and so the synergies for cross-selling are one of the main attractions," Hilwa said.

Heroku CEO Byron Sebastian argued that Ruby presents a more contemporary option for developers than Java. "I think there's a lot that we've learned over the last 10 years in terms of what's needed. Ruby sort of comes from that new generation of programming languages, frameworks and, frankly, of developers," Sebastian said.

Also at the conference, Salesforce and BMC announced RemedyForce, a cloud offering for IT service management. RemedyForce will handle incident, asset, and problem management and will feature a self-service portal.

"What I'm really excited about with RemedyForce is it's really the next strategic cloud for our customers," Benioff said.

Heroku and RemedyForce become the seventh and eighth clouds under Salesforce's domain. The others are Sales Cloud 2, for sales automation; Service Cloud 2, for customer support; Chatter, for collaboration; Jigsaw, for data quality; Database.com, for database services; and the Force.com platform, for deploying business applications.

Salesforce.com cited on Wednesday five cloud services as comprising Force.com 2, the new version of Force.com. These include Appforce, for building collaborative applications; Siteforce, for building Web sites without code; VMforce, for Java applications; ISVforce, for ISVs to build multi-tenant applications; and Heroku. Force.com 2, the company said, offers an application development platform featuring forms, processes, analytics, social, and mobile features on Salesforce.com infrastructure.

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