Salesforce.com-Heroku deal muddies the water for VMware

Salesforce.com's Heroku purchase is already raising questions. What does it mean for VMware and Salesforce's cloud platform collaboration, and how will it affect cloud developers?

Weekly cloud computing update

SAN FRANCISCO -- Developers attending Dreamforce '10 this week had all the usual concerns about the big corporation, Salesforce.com, acquiring the little guy, Heroku.

Will Heroku get more expensive? Will I have to use Force.com in order to use Heroku? Salesforce.com is all about enterprise apps, while Heroku is focused on getting startups up and running; will they preserve these differences or push the platforms together? Some people were not about to wait around and find out; they're jumping ship to Ruby alternatives Engine Yard, Joyent or DreamHost.

Another question floating around the show floor concerned the future of VMforce, the collaboration between Salesforce.com and VMware launched earlier this year. This Platform as a Service brings full Java support via VMware's SpringSource acquisition to Force.com, opening the platform up to millions of Java developers. However, VMforce is still in alpha and won't be publicly available until sometime next year.

Do developers twiddle their thumbs and wait for VMforce or get cracking on some other platform -- Heroku, Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure, to name the big ones? Chances are they won't be sitting around for anyone.

Salesforce.com's true intentions
Meanwhile, Salesforce.com has stated its full support for VMforce. But as Heroku takes off, where will Salesforce spend its marketing and R&D dollars? Will it throw cash at the platform it spent $212 million acquiring or the one it shares with VMware?

It seems pretty obvious that this acquisition is a threat to VMware, coming just as the company is trying to gain a foothold in the cloud business. VMware also has partnerships with Google, Verizon, Terremark, Savvis and bunch of other smaller hosting companies, with the goal of becoming the arms dealer to the cloud service provider market. But Salesforce.com's Heroku purchase shows that, with one small stroke, it's the service providers that have all the power.

Furthermore, there are now open source options for cloud middleware from OpenStack and others, so why would a service provider pay good money to VMware for software that is just as good and free?

VMware has said it has no plans to get into the service provider market, but there might not be a choice if the company hopes to have a real presence in the cloud market.

Jo Maitland is the Senior Executive Editor of SearchCloudComputing.com. Contact her at jmaitland@techtarget.com.

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