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Two young companies, neither of them leaders in traditional software development, have teamed up to pull enterprise Java programmers into cloud development. In this case, the cloud is specifically the Force.com data centers that already host Salesforce.com's CRM applications. It's an unlikely pairing, but it just might work.
What do VMware and Salesforce.com have in common? The one is the leader in high end virtualization, creating and managing virtual servers to run in enterprise data centers, a server consolidation move. VMware would like to supply lots of cloud providers with management software for their operations, as well. It's started to do so, but most parties interested in using cloud infrastructure go to Amazon Web Services' Elastic Compute Cloud, Google App Engine or Microsoft Azure. None of them run VMware virtual machines as workloads. That's obstacle number one to VMware getting into cloud computing.
Salesforce.com has built a market leading data center for running multi-tenant applications, called Force.com. It's tried expanding its reach by adding VisualForce as a way for customers to build targeted user interfaces and Apex, a proprietary language with which a customer can customize an existing Salesforce.com application or build a new application.
On the face of it, there's no connection between the frustration points of these two companies. VMware can't wave a magic wand and get Amazon to start running ESX hypervisor workloads in place of Amazon Machine Images, and Salesforce.com can wish a million more developers into existence to start using Apex and the rest of its infrastructure.
But VMware is showing it either has a sixth sense of how to get ahead of the competition or is simply a continuing, like a cat, to bank on its nine lives. When VMware acquired SpringSource last August, many people scratched their heads and said, huh? What does the Spring Framework's lightweight Java development have to do with virtualization?
As it turns out, there was always a connection, although VMware executives themselves seemed to have a hard time articulating it at the time. Virtual machines run applications. The more you can determine how an application is built, the more likely you will be able to deploy it with few changes as a virtual workload in a cloud environment. If you have the means to speed cloud application development through a popular framework, then the clouds that are allied with you will benefit from increased traffic and use.
The foresight in the SpringSource acquisition is now evident. The move gave VMware a position of strength with developers, some of whom are now developing for cloud deployments on the Spring Framework. An upcoming option in the deployment console of Spring will list Force.com, and dragging and dropping an application on the Force.com icon will result in its deployment there.
The Force.com platform, says Rod Johnson, founder of the Spring open source project and now general manager of the SpringSource unit of VMware, supplies security measures that Java programmers used to have to put into Spring applications themselves. Force.com provides scalability and high availability to a new Spring application, characteristics that used to require highly specialized knowledge and programming skills on the part of the Java programmer. Force.com will provide full text search, reporting, and powerful analytics, without the programmer adding anything further. Database services wil just work, he pointed out.
Most of all, the Force.com provides a hardware and networking environment that Java programmers do not have to understand, or worry about its potential points of failure. The points of failure may exist, but they are not the Java programmer's responsibility. Force.com gives you "operational management after the application is deployed," by Salesforce's data center operations specialists, Johnson noted at the launch of VMforce launch in San Francisco today.
The match up of development environment and cloud deployment is going to drive down the expense of new software while driving up the ability to invoke pre-built components and services. Microsoft understands this very well and is busy positioning Visual Studio and .Net technologies as cloud-ready -- for Azure. With the VMware/Saleforce partnership, there will be a second cloud platform for developers in play. Both are going to speed the shift from on-premises only development to on-premises plus the cloud.