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Summary:

Heroku is morphing from what was a Ruby-focused PaaS for web developers to a fully Java-supportive PaaS for big business. At least that’s what Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff hopes as he integrates Heroku — purchased in 2010 — more tightly into the company’s overall platform.

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, at Net:Work 2010

Enterprise developers love Java; Salesforce.com wants enterprise developers; ergo Salesforce.com will support the full soup-to-nuts Java stack in its Heroku platform as a service. That news, along with the fact that Salesforce.com will start marketing Heroku itself as a more integral part of the company’s overall Salesforce Platform, will be key messages coming out of the company’s Dreamforce conference this week.

The new Heroku Enterprise for Java supports the latest Java Development Kits (JDKs), adds native support for the popular Eclipse integrated development environment and adds enterprise support that includes guaranteed Service Level Agreements (SLAs.)

It won’t be alone in this Java PaaS fray. Red Hat — which owns the JBoss Java middleware franchise — is making a big Java PaaS play with Openshift.  Cloudbees is a Java PaaS and even Microsoft Azure supports Java.

Heroku which started out 5 years ago as a Ruby-focused PaaS, is popular among Web developers designing customer- facing apps. It has since added other languages — including for some Java support — over the years. What’s happening here, however is a major endorsement of the full Java ecosystem which is key in enterprise accounts where Salesforce.com’s CRM software as a service (SaaS)  offering is popular.

The importance of embracing Java

“We looked at Java and saw what you need to deploy Java web apps — Tomcat, SQL databases– you always need some sort of caching layer for session management and all those pieces take a lot of work to put together even with the modern technologies available. Heroku Enterprise for Java provides this all out of the box — the full Java stack provisioned for the enterprise cloud app that you would normally deploy on premise,” Oren Teich COO of Heroku told me recently.

Heroku will charge customers $1,000 per production application per month. “You pay one price for the whole set up, the production app, the sandbox and development environment,” Jesper Joergensen, senior director of product for Heroku said in a recent interview

Since Salesforce bought Heroku in January 2010 for $212 million, developers both inside and outside of big businesses —  have used these platforms like it to build and test applications. But their corporate masters are less enthused about putting production corporate applications on these platforms. That’s something Salesforce.com, Red Hat, Microsoft (with Azure) and others are trying to change.

Al Hilwa, IDC program director for application development  said Salesforce is doing a lot with this new “Winter” release of its platform — broadening it out to include essential enterprise-class services including s file storage and identity management. Bringing 5-year-old Heroku more into the fold is part of that effort.

The company is also accommodating touch devices with its HTML5 Salesforce Touch framework. “Finally, we are seeing [Salesforce.com] bolster the Java capabilities to support real Java workloads. This is a crucial point for Heroku to run a larger mix of enterprise Java workloads, namely existing enterprise Java applications,” he said.

Salesforce’s two PaaS problem

One nagging issue for the company is that it’s fielding two PaaSes — Force.com which supports the company’s proprietary APEX language and the polyglot Heroku. The expectation is that it will bring those offerings together over time. For now, developers will be able to use Force.com’s new Canvas tool to integrate third-party applications into that environment.  With Canvas “you can now write Ruby or Java apps that use Force.com metadata and context,” Hilwa said.

Another issue: Heroku now runs only on Amazon infrastructure. As big and powerful as that platform is, it’s been known to go down and take customers — including Heroku and Netflix — with it.  Other, smaller PaaSes like Appfog, preach a multi-cloud strategy for that reason. Krishnan Subramanian, principal analyst with Rishidot, said Heroku needs to follow suit. “I’ve been pushing them a long time on this [Amazon Web Services] thing,” he said. In his view, Heroku needs to stay on Amazon but also move to other infrastructure including Salesforce.com infrastructure.

A few months ago Heroku’s then-CEO Byron Sebastian told me that Heroku is always evaluating options and will do what’s best for customers. Sebastian left in August, but Teich reiterated his message, saying Heroku will have more to say on this topic in a few months.

“You don’t come to Heroku because you want Amazon … We firmly believe uptime is critical and irrespective of the underlying infrastructure you need to know that we will be accountable for our uptime,” Teich said.

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  1. Barb, Great analysis of the Salesforce announcement – but there’s more at issue here.

    Not only does Salesforce have a “Two PaaS” problem (along with the minor issue that one of them only runs on Amazon) – but it is still an entirely “Public” Cloud play. Salesforce’s newly formed platform still gives Enterprises no option to pull their applications in-house to a Private Cloud and it still locks them in to yet another proprietary cloud platform.

    When the dust settles on the DF announcements, enterprises are that are looking at Private Cloud options are more inclined run with a Private PaaS solution like ActiveState’s Stackato on which they can deploy their applications securely on premise, still make API calls out to Salesforce services thus enabling them to take advantage the great services that Salesforce offers without the limitations.

    http://www.activestate.com/stackato/private-paas

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