Was it a wise decision for Salesforce.com to acquire Heroku?
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May 14, 2014
Some IT industry analysts are wondering if Salesforce.com's decision to acquire Heroku
was a good idea in the first place.
Why would a big SaaS company like SalesForce.com with its own development platform need a
PaaS play like Heroku?
The eternally-enthusiastic company has just spelled out why, and how, it thinks the two will
The business model is straightforward-- developers building apps for employees will do it on
Force.com and developers building apps for consumers will do it on Heroku.
The concept seems to be that Heroku can take care of all the heavy lifting required to deliver
a web app at scale.
Force.com retains its role as the place to do custom app development for your team and the
new connector pipes data between the two with sufficient speed.
However, in the background things aren't that simple. Salesforce.com lives on Oracle software.
Heroku relies on its own version of Postgres. So they offer rather different environments for developers,
and that could pose some issues down the road.
Salesforce.com is also being a bit loosy-goosy on data centre arrangements-- let's hope they've
got Force.com and Heroku as physically close as possible so that latency doesn't cause some delays
during data transfers between the two platforms.
Salesforce is saying that the formal release of the Heroku Connector will enhance its overall
proposition by making it possible to feed customer-generated data into apps that run business processes.
But in the recent past, that hasn't been that easy since you code your entire business by hand,
either as a startup or a business colossus, with probably more developers than you really need.
However, there's a bit of truth in that concept. It's probably also not far from reality to suggest
that what Salesforce has done is build middleware-as-a-service to link the two divergent parts of its
In a strange manner that's a sign of maturity-- most big IT companies have middleware 'bridges' here and
In other IT news
Last week, Hewlett-Packard announced its HP Helion brand and pledged to commit no less than $1 billion
over the next two years on products and services surrounding OpenStack, under the Helion brand name.
In addition to offering its free distribution of OpenStack, HP is putting all its other cloud
offerings, including tools for workload management and software development, under the Helion name as
As IT industry analysts digest last week's news from HP, it is becoming clear that the company is
very serious about committing its company strategy to OpenStack.
Its plans include evolving its own editions of the platform, delivering a Cloud Foundry-based
platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and HP even intends to protect customers from Open-Stack-related
patent infringement claims.
Now that last issue is a big one, and it has more than one observer shaking heads. Many enterprises
are aware of the patent infringement claims that regularly get slapped on open source platforms such
as Android and OpenStack. And HP is no different.
However, it's important to note that the company has some other advantages in the OpenStack
For one thing, it's a proven hardware provider and although Dell also sells hardware, it has backed
out of the public OpenStack cloud race.
That means that HP has an equal opportunity to be a big player in the hardware/software bundles
that will eventually arrive in the OpenStack arena, sooner rather than later.
And, as we've noted numerous times, players in the OpenStack arena are going to be differentiated
by what kind of support they can offer, and HP has a lot of experience supporting enterprise users.
That means it can compete directly with solid support providers like Red Hat. It seems that Dell,
which has been erratic in its commitment to OpenStack, is watching HP's OpenStack moves closely.
"In what amounts to a denominational spat between two adherents of the open-source community, Dell, the privately held
computing giant founded by Michael Dell, issued a statement ahead of HP’s Web conference, chiding HP’s
plan to offer a commercial version of OpenStack in addition to the free Community version."
"Anyone choosing HP’s commercial version runs the risk of having a hard time switching to another
vendor if they later decide to make a change," it said.
As we've reported last week, HP is offering a broad set of services surrounding OpenStack.
It's looking more and more like HP wants to get out of various low margin businesses that it is
in, and tie its future to OpenStack and the cloud.
It will be interesting to watch whether the company preserves open practices and standards as it goes forward
with that strategy.
In other IT news
If you were concerned that Microsoft was moving away from its .Net technology, don't be--
the software behemoth had many .Net-related announcements to make at its annual TechEd North
America conference this week.
To be sure, recent Build Developer conferences have been rather light on .Net content, between
on C++ for the desktop.
However, yesterday's TechEd announcements saw Microsoft sprucing up its .Net technology for a
different role than either of those technologies, one aimed squarely at server-side applications
and the cloud. And that shouldn't come as a surprise to most people.
"On the cloud side of servers, the future of .Net is about the modern web," Microsoft developer and
vice president Soma Somasegar wrote in a blog post.
"Our immediate goal is for the next version of .Net to be the first and only framework
designed for the cloud, helping you to create on-premises applications and move them to the cloud
with no changes and at the same time leveraging all the power of the infrastructure."
Collectively, such efforts are being lumped under the name ".Net vNext", a multi-pronged initiative
that will take the platform in several new directions all at once. At least that's what Microsoft
One of the more significant announcements on Monday was that .Net vNext will include a "cloud
optimized mode," which will be a lightweight version that eliminates libraries that aren't needed
for server-side deployments, such as Windows Forms and Windows Presentation Foundation.
The cloud mode will also allow developers to bundle the .Net Framework libraries they need with
their apps on an app-by-app basis.
And different apps running on the same server will be able to run different versions of the same
libraries without any conflicts.
The libraries themselves will also be streamlined to reduce their footprints. Building on top of
this more agile version of .Net will be ASP.Net vNext, the next version of Microsoft's server-side
web technology and what the .Net team described as "our big announcement at TechEd."
From what we know so far, ASP.Net vNext was clearly designed with the cloud in mind. According to
Microsoft's developers, applications built on it will automatically adjust the behavior of such services
as caching and session state depending on whether they are running in a traditional hosting environment
or in the cloud.
"We use dependency injection behind the scenes to provide your app with the correct implementation
for these services," the .Net team explained. "Using this approach, it is really easy to move your app
from on-premises to the cloud, since our code changes, not yours."
API.Net vNext will also include updated versions of a number of APIs, where MVC, Web API, and Web
Pages have all been merged into a unified programming model.
A single controller can return MVC views and Web API responses, for example. The revamped platform
will also be integrated with Microsoft's new .Net Compiler Platform, aka "Roslyn," allowing near-real-time
recompilation of ASP code.
Overall, code changes made in Visual Studio will be reflected immediately in the browser after a
refresh, without a separate build cycle.
And in a surprising but welcome move, Microsoft says it is taking a few steps to make sure all of
this works on more platforms than just Windows.
Although .Net is a managed-code platform, much like Java, in the past Microsoft has never gone in
for Java's "write once, run anywhere" concept.
But for .Net vNext it has been working with Xamarin to make sure its .Net packages run on OS X
and Unix/Linux, via the open source Mono project.
The company has even gone as far as to develop a tool called ApiPort that can analyze .Net code
for its portability.
The tool not only alerts developers to any potential issues, but it also uploads its analysis to
the company in order that Microsoft can prioritize the "most requested" API/platform combinations.
Finally, Microsoft says that it has committed to releasing all of the .Net vNext technologies as
open source software via its newly inaugurated .Net Foundation – which it says shouldn't come as a
surprise, since all of the ASP.Net Web stack is already open source.
So it looks like Microsoft has ambitious plans for .Net and by targeting cloud deployments it's
addressing a healthy, growing market.
Whether it can win over enough converts to grow .Net's share of that market remains to be seen. "We'll share
much more in the months to come before we release the final versions," the .Net team said in a blog post.
"We're looking forward to shipping pre-release versions in order to get your feedback," the post said.
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