Salesforce.com was a pioneer in cloud computing, but it has been a bit off on its own, using its proprietary Apex language as the development tool for its cloud-based sales force management application. Now a partnership between VMware and Salesforce.com will add Java support to the Salesforce.com product line.
At the heart of VMforce is the popular Spring Java framework VMware gained last year with its purchase of open source consultancy SpringSource. Through Spring, the platform will support Plain Old Java Objects (POJOs), Java Server Pages (JSPs), Java Servlets and other Java technologies.
"My sense is that this is Salesforce's strategy to get Java developers drawn to the Force.com platform," said Ovum analyst Tony Baer. "For VMware it is a jumpstart to grow the footprint of the Spring Framework and tcServer, not to mention VMware virtualization in the cloud."
At a live media event on Tuesday, Salesforce.com CEO Mark Benioff said developers now need to deliver applications with feeds, touch, tablet capabilities, push, location awareness and mobility. Speaking about the "next wave" of application development, Benioff used Facebook as the model of how advanced social features are increasingly important in newer applications.
"But the question is, how can today's Java developers build the next generation of these apps in the cloud?" said Benioff. "Enterprise Java developers don't have a clear path to the cloud."
"In theory what it means for Java developers is that there's sort of a ready marketplace community for them to develop their applications," said RedMonk analyst Stephen Cote. "Because there is that tighter integration between the Salesforce application and ecosystem, it kind of helps accelerate the market for these [applications]."
Spring developers won't need to learn anything new to use VMforce, claimed Rod Johnson, general manager of the SpringSource division of VMware.
"You're able to use the familiar skill set that millions of developers already have—the familiar Java and Spring skill set," said Johnson.
VMware customers will also be able to use VMforce to scale beyond their existing private cloud environments as needed. Johnson said VMware/SpringSource has provided a way to decouple the application code from its environment so it doesn't matter whether it is deployed in the cloud or on a traditional application server.
From Force.com specifically, VMforce will gain a relational database, social collaboration tools and pre-built business services that handle search, integration, security, workflow, mobile deployment and analytics. The offering will run on Salesforce.com's infrastructure, which the company says averages 250 million transactions a day from more than 72,500 customers.
When VMforce will hit the street remains unclear. The companies said a developer preview of VMforce will be available later this year. Pricing has not yet been announced.