Salesforce.com (s crm) is trying to entice developers working inside the enterprise to its platform-as-a-service product by offering them a free first taste of Force.com. The platform is built on Salesforce.com’s own infrastructure that it cobbled together to deliver its CRM software as a service. It looks like Salesforce.com’s goal with Force.com is to create an enterprise platform-as-a-service offering that rivals Google’s (s Goog) App Engine, or eventually Microsoft’s (s msft) Azure. The battle that was fought last year over infrastructure as a service, where Rackspace (s rax), Amazon (s amzn) and GoGrid were fighting to provide bare-bones cloud computing, is now moving up the stack as cloud vendors realize that plenty of IT departments are thinking about using some form of cloud computing, but may not want to trouble with thinking about the hardware layer.
The company today announced a free edition of Force.com so developers can build one app for up to 100 people, that uses up to 10 custom objects (custom database tables) per user and a web site that gets fewer than 250,000 page views per month. That last bit brings us to today’s second announcement: Force.com Sites.
The offering looks like an amped-up GeoCities for enterprises that allows corporate IT departments to build an internal or public-facing web site, while still tying it into permissions and data available to Force.com. There are three pricing levels, from free (which lets a site owner have up to 250,000 page views) to unlimited (which, despite the name, is limited to 1 million monthly page views.) Additional monthly page views are available for $1,000 per month for up to 1 million more monthly page views.
Given that each different platform as a service is built to optimize the host’s underlying hardware and architecture, several of them will likely proliferate in the spirit of co-opetition. Google, for example, emphasizes that App Engine is designed for apps that need to scale, while Salesforce.com emphasizes its familiarity with the enterprise and permissions around accessing data. Microsoft has said it plans to integrate Azure deeply into its suite of products, which will help developers customize their Microsoft apps. Expect to see more news about these efforts and more agreements to make sure data and permissions can be shared between them in the coming months.