Salesforce.com upgrades Force.com with mobile, database gifts for developers

Salesforce.com's Force.com platform has been the object of scorn from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who recently launched his own cloud

Salesforce.com is rolling out a number of upgrades to its Force.com platform in conjunction with the Summer '12 update to the vendor's cloud CRM (customer relationship management) software, focusing on areas such as mobile application development, database tooling and easier upgrades.

The new mobile features include support for geolocation fields inside Force.com's database infrastructure, allowing developers to create "location-aware" applications.

Salesforce.com has also created a new Schema Builder toolset, which is generally available as part of Summer '12. Schema Builder provides a visual, drag-and-drop style interface for quickly building database schemas.

Another feature, push upgrades, automatically applies updates to applications and functionality built by ISVs using Force.com. "Very unique" features such as this are driving the momentum behind Force.com's AppExchange marketplace, said Mike Rosenbaum, senior vice president of AppExchange and Force.com operations.

The marketplace now includes more than 1,500 applications, but that number doesn't wholly represent growing loyalty to the Force.com platform's technology. As of Friday, the AppExchange's website listed only 325 applications that were natively built on Force.com.

Critics such as Oracle CEO Larry Ellison have knocked Force.com on grounds it is proprietary and doesn't allow companies to move applications built there to other cloud infrastructures. Ellison is hoping to compete with Force.com through its own Java-based cloud service, which he launched at an event last week.

"Your data's always yours," Rosenbaum said of Salesforce.com customers, when asked to respond to Ellison's jibes. Salesforce.com also invests heavily in open APIs (application programming interfaces) and other areas meant to give customers flexibility, he added.

But in turn, Force.com provides a "very effective and efficient" platform for developers, Rosenbaum said.

Still, Salesforce.com hasn't depended solely on Force.com, buying Ruby application development vendor Heroku in 2010. Support for Java applications has since been added to Heroku.

Salesforce.com also had an ultimately aborted partnership with VMware called VMForce, which focused on Java application development.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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