Competition in the Web hosting market continues to rise. The latest example involves Salesforce.com, which has unveiled a new service -- called Force.com Sites -- that allows customers to run their Web sites in the Salesforce.com cloud. The move comes only a few days after Microsoft launched its Azure cloud services.
For managed service providers, the growing list of cloud services from which to choose can seem overwhelming. But we're in a hype cycle and I expect many cloud services to disappear into vapor over the next few years. Here's why.
Generally speaking, big publicly held technology companies are desperate to position themselves in the software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing markets. All of the major industry research firms -- from Gartner to International Data Corp. -- are telling their clientele about the shift to on-demand services. And traditional on-premise solutions have lost their shine.
Best of Both Worlds?I do believe in cloud and SaaS services. But I expect a hybrid approach to emerge, where customers mix and match their on-premise options with cloud services. A prime example involves an on-premise storage solution (such as Symantec Backup Exec) integrated with a cloud service (such as Symantec Protection Network, SPN). Symantec has been developing an agency sales model so that MSPs can profit from SPN.
We're also seeing examples of MSP-specific software (such as Vembu StoreGrid) plugging into such cloud services as Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3).
Still, it takes millions of dollars to build and maintain data centers for cloud-based services. While companies like Amazon.com and Google have excess capacity in their own data centers, I do sometimes wonder if their cloud services are a hobby or a core focus of their long-term business strategies.
What Is Force.com?Now, along comes Force.com Sites (available in developer preview at http://developer.force.com). According to Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff:
"With Force.com Sites, customers can run their Web sites in our cloud. Force.com Sites will enable a dramatic expansion of Force.com's role in cloud computing for the enterprise. We expect our community to unleash entirely new kinds of applications and innovations that will truly drive our vision of 'The End of Software.'"According to the Salesforce.com press release:
The Force.com platform provides the necessary building blocks to quickly build and run business applications including database, workflow, logic, integration, customization, and user interface capabilities. Force.com also enables data and applications to be easily extended to mobile devices. Force.com does this without requiring customers to manage and maintain additional client/server infrastructure.While Force.com won't be generally available until calendar year 2009, Salesforce.com mentioned numerous companies that have already tested and used Force.com to deploy applications. Early adopters include Astadia (a global systems integrator) and Appirio (a Web 2.0 site development firm).
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