SAN FRANCISCO -- Salesforce and VMware don't seem like two firms that have much common ground: one helps virtualize datacenter servers, the other advocates dumping your on-premises apps for their on-demand software marketplace.
But VMware owns SpringSource, a company that develops an important technology for both firms: the Spring application framework. The Spring framework has become popular as an alternative to Java EE for building enterprise-scale applications, particularly for database access.
VMware will leverage Spring to offer a new application development platform in the cloud called VMforce, which in turn will talk to Salesforce.com applications. This will basically enable Java apps to access the Salesforce network and share data, not to mention allow Java developers to write apps that utilize Salesforce services. (VMforce is slated for release later this year.)
VMforce will also allow Salesforce customers to develop Java-based apps to run on Force.com, Salesforce's platform-on-demand. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff described such apps as "Cloud 2 enterprise applications," which are defined as social in nature and able to work on any mobile device in real-time, among other things.
"This brings together the best of VMware and the best of Salesforce.com," Benioff said at the launch event here. "The fundamental architecture shows how Force.com is extended with VMware technology. That is really powerful, that Java runs in the cloud, and at the enterprise level with the reliability, availability and scalability that developers need to be successful. This is a transformational point."
Force.com has up to now been a development platform primarily for existing Salesforce.com customers to modify their standard Salesforce applications using the provided VisualForce user interface components and the Apex language, a proprietary language from Salesforce with a similar syntax to Java and C++. With VMforce, developers can use Java instead of Apex and program with their Java developer tool of preference.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is making a similar move with its Azure cloud services. It plans to make its Visual Studio and .NET technologies available for building Azure-based apps, and Azure will use an SQL Server-compatible database service.
VMforce applications will utilize the Salesforce.com global security infrastructure, all of the standard Java technologies, such as plain old Java objects (POJOs), Java Server Pages (JSPs), and Java Servlets -- all supported by Spring -- and will be able to leverage the Spring framework's automatic scalability.
Moving from Cloud 1 to Cloud 2
"This means one thing: We are moving from Cloud 1, made famous by companies like Amazon and Google and eBay with simple apps upgraded and managed from a central location to Cloud 2, a new generation of app that's about data and that's about social," said Benioff.
In addition to the Spring framework support, VMforce will also use the SpringSource Tool Suite, an integrated, tested and certified development environment offering a complete set of Eclipse-based tools for creating Java apps, and SpringSource tc server, the enterprise version of the Apache Tomcat Java server.
"Force.com developers will love it because they can use Java for the first time. Java developers will love it because they can easily write enterprise-quality apps into the cloud five times faster and for half the cost," said Benioff.
VMforce apps will also be able to incorporate Force.com's Chatter services for real-time discussion and collaboration into their applications, and use the existing Force.com development platform and services for building applications.
"This isn't about your father's enterprise apps," said Paul Maritz, CEO of VMware, who preceded Benioff on stage. "This will about new enterprise apps for a new generation of people coming into the world who have a very different expectation of what these apps will do."
A developer preview will be available on VMforce.com later this year. Pricing will be announced then.