Will Database.com's cloud database appeal to cloud developers?

Ariel Kelman, vice president of product marketing for Force.com, took some time out at Dreamforce 2010 to discuss Salesforce.com's new Database.com cloud database.

Kelman says that Database.com is available for developers writing in any language, on any platform and any device, but will the developers care?

For more, check out our full story on the Database.com announcement.


Read the full transcript from this video below:  
Will Database.com appeal to cloud developers?

Jo Maitland: Hi, my name's Jo Maitland. I'm the Editor of SearchCloudComputing.com. I'm here at Dreamforce in San Francisco with Ariel Kelman. Ariel, do you want to introduce yourself?

Ariel Kelman: Hi, my name is Ariel Kelman. I'm the VP of platform product marketing at Salesforce.com.

Jo Maitland:  So, thanks for agreeing to be on the show.

Ariel Kelman: Oh, sure, of course.

Jo Maitland: So, first of all, tell us about, the big news appears to be the Database.com service. What does this mean for developers? Why should they care?

Ariel Kelman: Yeah, we're really excited about this Database.com offering because it's going to give developers an open path to cloud computing. Where they can use the world's most trusted cloud database that's used by over 87,000 customers and they can use it with any programming language, any platform and any device.

Jo Maitland: So the idea is, so this is what Force was already running on, Salesforce was already using and now you've just opened it up.

Ariel Kelman: Yes. Same database technology, it's powered our sales cloud, our service cloud, our Force.com platform and those are great ways to use our database. We've had developers say, we love your database but I want to build apps on Amazon that connect to your database. I want to build apps that are native iPhone apps using Apple's iOS tools that run against your database. I want to build Android apps. So, making this available to all developers to use on any platform is going to accelerate the move to the cloud for all developers.

Jo Maitland: I think I read somewhere that it runs on Oracle rack.

Ariel Kelman: So, we use some Oracle technology in our underlying service. We really had to build our own multi-tenant cloud database from the ground up 11 years ago when we started the company because there wasn't a cloud database. We needed a database that could scale to tens of thousands of companies using it at the same time, was available, had security that people demanded and that didn't exist so we had to build a lot of our own technology.

Jo Maitland: So, on that note about being open, it's available, your app can be living on any platform and still access the database.com service, is that a sort of shift for you guys? I mean, traditionally Force was proprietary, it was Apex, the programming language. It's slowing shifting the VM force towards supporting full Java. Is this more of an acknowledgement that there are more platforms out there and developers want open standards.

Ariel Kelman: So, this strategy of opening up our platform to more developers is something that we've been working on really for the past year and a half. So, you saw we did the VM Force announcement earlier to bring Java to our platform. And we want to continue that. I mean, like, the developers that have been using our platform, Force.com, to build apps, they love it, it's super fast, it's highly productive, but if you don't want to use our platform, that's fine. Breaking up our service into smaller components lets developers have more choice, and we think that's a good thing.

Jo Maitland: And so, talk to us about what, I mean, I've seen developers build almost everything on Force. But just because you can build something on Force doesn't necessarily mean you should, so what kinds of applications are best suited to the Force.com platform?

Ariel Kelman: So, mobile and social apps we really see as two of the big use cases. So, for mobile apps, people want native apps, they want that native experience with the Apple iPhone operating system, with iPad, with Android devices. They don't necessarily want to access an app in the browser so what that means is they write the app natively on those devices. And then, those devices need a cloud database to power them and connect people together for the business data, especially if you're talking business applications. So, that's one.

The other area is apps that run on cloud platforms that need a trusted database. That enterprise IT departments can look at and say, this has been vetted, this is secure, we can trust our most important information there.

Jo Maitland: So, it's not necessarily just extending a CRM application, although that's also in itself being sort of customized around your CRM app.

Ariel Kelman: It can be any application.

Jo Maitland: All sorts of social apps. I've heard Force is really good for like, data-centric applications.

Ariel Kelman: And with the social apps, we've built social functionality right into the database. Essentially, there's a social data model. So, whatever database you build, every record of data can be followed, every record of data has a feed where information updates can be pushed out in real time, and for developers, if they want to make any of their apps as social and collaborative as our Chatter application, they can do that with database.com because they don't have to code all the low level social infrastructure.

They build their user interface and they ask our database, give me the feed for Jo Maitland. Let me see the updates that she cares about, all the data that she's followed. If it's a finance application and there's an invoice that you've decided to follow, well you can get information that that customer paid their bill, just like if you follow a journalist and they wrote a new article, it'll show up in your feed.

Jo Maitland: Right. And so with Chatter, you can only get Chatter when you have a Salesforce, you're a Salesforce customer, right?

Ariel Kelman: Yes, that's Chatter, the application. The Chatter technology is built into our database. So, the developers when they're building their own new applications, they can take those components of Chatter and build it into their apps.

Jo Maitland: So, kind of broadening out a bit from Force.com, what do you think, what would you say is the hardest thing or the biggest challenge for developers today trying to get into the Cloud, like maintaining apps in the Cloud, what is it? Is it the choosing the platform, is it maintaining the application?

Ariel Kelman: There are a lot of choices out there. I think the biggest challenge is to look at the Cloud not just as changing the location of what we did before, but to look at it as an opportunity to do things different, to do things more efficiently. If you take for example, the idea of on-premise platforms, they really force you typically to make a choice from one model thick stack to another.

Anything you need from database, work flow, UI, you kind of pick one. You pick .net, you pick IBM Websphere, but in the Cloud, you can pick and choose the best services from any platform. You can use our database, you can use Google app engine, maybe, combine that with Amazon S3 to store videos. Combining those together is a new opportunity, so we think people really need to look at what's out there and think of it as a wide open new world.

Jo Maitland: So, it is then the idea there is so much choice, how do you figure out which is the right one?

Ariel Kelman: Right and it's because being on the Cloud, people who get the Cloud have built these platforms to be integrated from day one, but we had to do that at Salesforce because your applications you build on our service are outside the firewall so they can't be integrated, then they really don't have that much value. So, from day one, open APIs, rock solid APIs was a core part of our strategy and because companies, like Salesforce and Google and Amazon have taken that approach, it's easy for our developers to pick and choose and combine those services together.

Jo Maitland: Yeah. It reminds me of the days where people were like, well, why do I need a website and now people are like, well, why do I need an API? Well, basically if you have an application, you're building a SaaS application, you need an API.

Ariel Kelman: Exactly.

Jo Maitland: So, another thought on just the online community around Force. I know that there are various message boards out there. How much support is there around that online community? Are there people posting responses to questions? What's the staffing around that?

Ariel Kelman: So, we have a pretty vibrant community; there's around 300,000 developers. There's a community site called developerforce.com, and the discussion boards are pretty active. We have both our developer evangelist, and also the community itself will give people suggestions, answer questions, it's really the first place the developers go when they want to get advice or get help.

Jo Maitland: And so, if there was one piece of advice that you could give to a developer today who is looking at Microsoft Dujour, looking at the sort of Force.com, VM Force world, trying to figure out, what would you say is the core difference between the two?

Ariel Kelman: Well, first of all, I'd say, take a look. The definition that we have of Cloud service is that you can go there, get it on the Internet, no hardware or software to install and most importantly, developers can get a free account. And that's our strategy, that's been Google's strategy. So, go check these sites out. But what we are specialized on is business applications. It's serving the needs of the enterprise without the cost and complexity of software. So, if you want to build those kinds of apps, if you're a developer in a business or if you're an entrepreneur that wants to start a Cloud business and build a SaaS application that you can sell to the enterprise, then we're the platform for you.

Jo Maitland: Is there a price to list your app on App Exchange if I build an application?

Ariel Kelman: It's free to list on App Exchange. The pricing model for ISVs is pretty simple. It's just a 15 % revenue share and they can do whatever pricing they want in whatever business model fits their company.

Jo Maitland: So, I heard somewhere that it's like $5,000 to list an app on App Exchange, that's nonsense then.

Ariel Kelman: There's a security listing fee, so we do security checks of everything that goes up on the App Exchange, and we contract out some of that work so it helps pay the costs.

Jo Maitland: So, everyone has to pay that cost. That's no matter what the application?

Ariel Kelman: Yes.

Jo Maitland: Interesting. Well, thank you very much, Ariel, nice to meet you.

Ariel Kelman: Thank you, Jo.

Jo Maitland: Cheers.

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