Salesforce.com writes its own language

Apex, a multi-tenant, on-demand programming language will be available next year from the company as it extends its growth into a platform provider.

Salesforce.com Inc. today extended its transformation from CRM vendor to platform provider, announcing plans for

Apex, an on-demand programming language.

As part of its Dreamforce 06 user and developer conference being held in San Francisco this week, the company touted Apex as the first on-demand, multi-tenant programming language and platform.

"We've taken our own internal development tools and made that available to our customers to customize and to build brand new applications," said Ariel Kelman, director of AppExchange product marketing.

Apex will be released as part of the Salesforce Winter '07 release scheduled for the first half of 2007. Apex code and applications will run on Salesforce.com's service, allowing businesses to focus on development rather than infrastructure, according to the company.

While continuing to roll out CRM enhancements to its core application, Salesforce.com has turned to partners to develop software that extends beyond sales, marketing and service through AppExchange, its online repository of on-demand applications. One company, Kieden Corp., developed a tool that tracks Google keyword advertising metrics back into the Salesforce.com system and was acquired by Salesforce.com in August. Salesforce.com owned the AppExchange platform, providing access to its customer base of 24,800. Now it plans to own the programming language and the data centers as others develop the software.  

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"Just as Java enabled the creation of millions of compelling Internet applications, Apex will transform on-demand computing," Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, said in a statement. "Apex enables anyone to write highly intelligent transactional applications that run on our multi-tenant service without any infrastructure investment. Now that anything can be built on-demand, no corner of enterprise software is safe."

The language is Java-like and built to run on Salesforce.com's service. Customers can use it to create customer components, customize and modify existing Salesforce.com code, create triggers and write procedures. Anything built on Apex can be made available as a Web service and is accessible via Simple Object Access Protocol and XML standards.

The Apex platform provides the programming language and capabilities for embedded mashups, Apex analytics, automatic upgrades and approval workflow. It also includes an application program interface (API) to access and manage complex data relationships and an Ajax toolkit. In addition, a real-time messaging and integration tool allows other applications, like middleware systems or message busses, to be notified of business events in Salesforce.com.

The company will build out certification, training and community programs to support its current developer community of 20,000, Kelman said.

While Salesforce.com is moving toward becoming a platform provider, that doesn't mean it is giving up on its CRM upbringing, Kelman pledged.

"Everything we're doing to build a platform is going to accelerate CRM success by giving admins better tools to deploy CRM in a way that fits their business processes," he said.

Salesforce.com also announced a business incubator program as part of AppExchange. The initial site of AppExchange Central, located in San Mateo, Calif., will allow entrepreneurs to rent office space and work with Salesforce.com employees and will provide access to Apex, technology infrastructure, product development and sales and marketing support. In addition, it will offer fundraising and business development assistance.

It is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2007. More incubators will be opened over the next 12 to 18 months.

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