Salesforce.com Invites Developers to Play in Its Sandbox

Salesforce.com has introduced its Summer ’07 release, dubbing it a “Platform as a Service” product because of the presence of the developer code Apex in the application.

While Apex has been released before, this is the first time it has been live for customers in a production environment. The multiple sandboxes included in the release are another component in Summer ’07 that should make it a favorite among developers.

These tools allow developers to place data in the production environment, make changes and test it without affecting everyday workflow, until it is time to make a permanent change to the application.

Including Apex

The inclusion of the Apex code in an integrated offering is key to many customers, Brad Mattick, the company’s director of product marketing, told CRM Buyer. “They can’t properly manage a platform without being able to write code for it.”

Apex Code is a Java-like development language that can build any application and make it available as a Web service. It is accessible via SOAP and XML standards. In January, Salesforce.com provided access to the Apex code to more than 1,200 developers in its network.

“Apex Code and industry defining features like intelligent work flow and multi-instance development environment provide clarity to enterprise CIOs by enabling them to focus on innovation, not infrastructure,” said Denis Pombriant, managing principal of Beagle Research.

There is a method to Salesforce.com’s steady build-out of platform technology, Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of Nucleus Research, told CRM Buyer.

“Platform as a Service offers developers more opportunities to build applications and then offload the care and feeding of them to Salesforce.com — a good strategy to drive innovation and retain developers while leveraging on-demand,” she said.

Other functions in Summer ’07 include a build-out of previously introduced portal technology and the introduction of intelligent workflow.

Salesforce Summer ’07 is expected to become available in August. The Salesforce Customer Portal will be available for an additional fee starting at $5 per user, per month, per portal. Multiple sandboxes are available at an additional fee for Unlimited and Enterprise Edition customers. Apex Code is available for Unlimited Edition customers at no additional charge.

Other features in the release include:

  • Salesforce.com Sandbox, introduced in the Winter ’06 release, has a more comprehensive presence in this release. It is a tool that allows companies to create a duplicate copy of their Salesforce development environment so that testing, training and development scenarios can be run without interrupting the production use of the application.
  • The Salesforce Customer Portal allows companies to personalize the portal with their own brand for different users, roles and companies. Salesforce.com introduced the concept of this functionality in the Spring ’07 release. Called “AppSpace,” it was one of the first applications that had not been preceded with even a pilot. Its next generation portal technology allows users with a place to engage with their customers, partners, or other companies using Salesforce.com and AppExchange applications.
  • This feature allows customers to create complex rules and approvals by adding formulas in workflow. This means that anything from case assignment rules to price discount approvals can be customized for each business use.
  • This is a new search-based user interface, which can be accessed through a search box on the main screen. Users can use it to search for contacts, accounts and opportunities for instance. Users are also able to access reports through Salesforce Mobile for the first time.
  • Companies using the solution knowledge base in Salesforce Service & Support now can illustrate them with diagrams and pictures by using HTML.

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