WSJ reported about the new Force.com Sites feature, which allows companies to create public facing sites and applications on the same platform and technology you’re already using for your CRM, Partner Management, Marketing, and other Force.com based applications. I think this is a really interesting move by Salesforce and is going to be powerful play against the other cloud-based giants out there including Amazon, Microsoft’s new Azure platform, and Google App Engine. Here’s why I think this is a good move by Salesforce, how it compares to the other cloud-based platforms, and why you might or might not want to take advantage of the new capabilities.
First, Salesforce already has a really strong user base that has a lot invested in the Force.com platform. They’ve got critical data and logic built up over many years, and with Sites they can now expose that information in ways that make sense and deliver business value. Sure, you can already do that using Apex and web services, but when everything is already integrated as one package it promotes collaboration and less resistance. You can bet that Salesforce.com and savvy partners will provide some really interesting apps through AppExchange that will make putting together enterprise solutions a simple affair.
Of course, vendor lockin is a big concern, and with Sites you are definitely being locked in to the Force.com’s platform in a way that is much stronger than alternative platforms. However, looking at the main consumer of this platform, the current Salesforce user, this should not be a big problem. If I’m already trusting my data, logic, and business transactions to Salesforce then benefits of quick turnaround, data reliability, security, and uptime will completely outweigh the downside of being locked in to the platform. Also, every other cloud platform or PaaS has some amount of lockin, this one just takes it to a whole new level.
So should you seriously consider this platform for your site? If you already have invested into Salesforce and Force.com, you probably should consider it, for all the sames reasons you went with a SaaS based CRM in the first place. Even with most enterprises’ heterogenous environment, it may make sense to use it to deliver features quickly and act as that ‘glue code’ that is usually spread throughout the company intranet. I’d love to get your thought or comments!