VMForce – Speculation on the new Salesforce.com and VMware alliance

On April 27th, Marc Benioff, chairman & CEO of salesforce.com, and Paul Maritz, president & CEO of VMware will make “an exciting joint product announcement on the future of cloud computing”. With a complete lack of knowledge of what is really going to get announced, here are some things that could get announced that would make this significant. There is a new web site, www.vmforce.com that invites anyone to sign up to be part of the announcement. 

First of all a bit of context. Salesforce.com is a clear leader in providing CRM and a variety of adjacent services on a SaaS basis. VMware is the clear market leader for the enterprise virtualization platform, and is making a strong push to have its platform be the basis of many cloud offerings, and through its SpringSource acquisition even be a platform for Java based virtualized applications.

With that bit of company background and context and mind, here is what could get announced:

  • First of all, the name VMForce suggests something. Salesforce.com has an offering today called Force.com. Force.com is a way for developers to extend the functionality of the core SalesForce.com CRM system with value-added offerings. These developers can be internal to a customer of SalesForce, or they can be independent software vendors (ISV’s) who build commercial extensions to SalesForce.com. There is an entire web site devoted to these applications at http://sites.force.com/appexchange/home.
  • What if VMForce is a cloud offering jointly created by VMware and SalesForce.com designed to dramatically simplify the hosting of these Force.com applications?
  • The first step in the process would be that VMForce would be a VMware based cloud similar to VMware based clouds offered by other hosting providers like Terremark and Savvis.
  • The next step is that the SpringSource Java runtime (SpringSource tc Server) – a Tomcat compatible Java application server, is selected as the Java platform for these new VMForce applications
  • Then how about if developers of Force.com applications are given the option of building these apps in the traditional SalesForce.com tools, or also via Spring, Groovy, and Grails (the SpringSource development tools). This would in the long term get SalesForce.com out of the developer tool business, which it probably does not want to spend money on in any case.

How would this benefit the world? It would let developers build their applications in VM’s running tc Server, and then when it was time to deploy the application simply copy the application up into a guest on VMForce.com that is already running tc server. Think of VMForce as a Platform as a Service play with the Java tc Server as a platform, with specific integration hooks back into the main SalesForce.com applications. This would create a brand new PaaS cloud that would focus upon Java based application that add value to the SalesForce.com set of CRM applications. This would benefit VMware in that it would create a cloud that is based upon the Java SpringSource runtime. It would benefit SalesForce.com because it would create a standard public cloud outside of its core SaaS cloud for these third party applications to run. And it would benefit Force.com developers and their customers by providing a robust and standard run time environment for these applications.

The danger of making these kinds of predictions is that it will be really obvious on April 27th how on target his post was. We will just have to see.

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