.com unveiled Force.com Sites on Monday at its U.S. Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. The new tool will enable business customers to integrate Salesforce.com applications into any Web site.
Built on the Force.com platform, the tool will enable businesses to create public Web sites that integrate with -- and utilize data from -- such Salesforce.com applications as customer relationship management, database, work flow, logic, integration, customization and user-interface capabilities. Additionally, businesses can extend data and applications for use on mobile devices.
'The End of Software'
Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive of Salesforce.com, said that with Force.com Sites, "customers can run their Web sites in our cloud." He added that Force.com Sites will "unleash entirely new kinds of applications and innovations that will truly drive our vision of 'The End of Software.'"
By doing so, Salesforce.com said, businesses will be able to avoid the "cost and complexity of traditional software." Force.com Sites are currently available in developer preview at developer.force.com.
Salesforce.com said the main idea is to allow businesses to get up and running quickly. The application is first built on Force.com, with definitions of sharing models and security rules to determine what data will be public. There are currently more than 85,000 custom applications that have been built on the Force.com platform, according to Salesforce.com.
Then, a business uses Salesforce.com's Visualforce to create the public-facing pages and user interface. Part of the Force.com platform, Visualforce enables users to specify the look and functionality of pages and components, and to build user-interface behavior with logic controllers.
A Force.com domain name is then registered, and the site is published and run on the Salesforce.com infrastructure.
'More Predictable, More Cost-Effective'
Some possible public sites could include consumer reviews, hotel concierge services, or event-registration sites, all of which would be integrated with a business app on Force.com. Another possible use would be to take a job-listing application that previously was used internally and create a public-facing Web site for job listings.
Some Salesforce.com customers have already experimented with developing prototypes. For example, a software-as-a-service consulting firm named Bluewolf created a community network portal for the health-care industry that offers customer reviews and other information on health-care providers, such as dentists.
Mark Margevicius, a research director at industry research firm Gartner, said the momentum behind cloud computing will continue to grow as Microsoft, Google and many industry leaders invest heavily in its development.
What we're seeing with new initiatives from Salesforce.com and others, he said, "is the foundation for new services at an application level." More and more, he added, the market is finding cloud computing an opportunity that offers access to applications in ways that can be "more predictable and more cost-effective."