So this week, salesforce.com (the world’s #4 fastest growing company, says Fortune Magazine) bought Ruby PaaS shop Heroku, announced database.com as a cloud database solution, and announced remedyForce, IT config management from BMC.
That’s quite the hat trick. salesforce.com has been the 900 lb gorilla in the closet for a while now; they’ve been hugely successful and have put a lot of good innovation on their systems but so far force.com, their PaaS solution, has been militantly “for existing CRM customers.” This seems like an indication of preparation to move into the general PaaS market and if they do I think they’ll be a force to reckon with – experience, money, and a proven track record of innovation. NI doesn’t use salesforce.com (“Too expensive” I’m told) so I’ve kept them on the back burner in terms of my attention but I’m guessing in 2011 they will come into the pretty meager PaaS space and really kick some ass.
Because for PaaS – what do we have really? Google App Engine, and in traditional Google fashion they pooped it out, put some minimum functionality on it, and wandered off. (We tried it once, determined that it disallowed half the libraries we needed to use, and gave up.) Microsoft Azure, which is really a hybrid IaaS/PaaS, you don’t get to ignore the virtual server aspect and have to do infrastructure stuff like monitor, scale instances, etc. yourself. And of course Heroku. And VMWare’s Cloud Foundry thing for Java, but VMWare is having a bizarrely hard time doing anything right in the cloud – talk about parlaying leadership in a nearby sector unsuccessfully. I have no idea why they’re executing so slowly, but they are. Even that seems like Salesforce is doing it better, with VMForce (salesforce + vmware collaboration on Java PaaS).
In the end, most of us want PaaS – managing the plumbing is uninteresting, as long as it can manage itself well – but it’s hard, and no one has it nailed yet. I hope salesforce.com does move into the general-use space; I’d hate for them to be buying up good players and only using them to advance their traditional business.