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Salesforce.com (s CRM) today gave the world true cloud data portability. Kind of. As its name suggests, Salesforce.com’s new Database.com offering is a cloud database, one that’s designed for enterprise, social and mobile applications. What the name doesn’t tell is that users can tie to Database.com applications written in most any language and running atop most any public cloud. Yes, users are tied to Database.com to achieve this capability, but it’s another step toward true cloud choice.
Technologically, Database.com should be very familiar to anyone that has used Salesforce.com. As Gordon Evans, senior director of public relations, told me in an email, it’s the “same infrastructure that powers our Salesforce apps and Force.com platform, now available as a standalone service.” What’s new, however, is the “social data model” designed to handle things like feeds, status updates and user profiles, and development kits for everything from Java (s orcl) to iOS (s aapl) to Windows Azure (s msft). Furthermore, as Evans clarified, “Database.com can serve as the database for any cloud application connected to the Internet.”
But it’s the openness – or the choice, at least – that’s the real story here. If developers are willing to commit to Database.com as the data layer, they can have their choice as to what types of applications they run and atop which clouds they run them. It’s not the Promised Land of true interoperability for which openness advocates are calling, but early on, at least, we’ll have to live with proprietary innovation in cloud computing. That makes choice the best alternative to true openness.
Oh, and Database.com marks the fulfillment of Marc Benioff’s suggestion last month that he would democratize databases in the cloud. The suggestion seemed strange at the time considering how only Salesforce.com CRM customers and Force.com developers could access the company’s database infrastructure, but, clearly, Benioff had a plan in place. Part of democratization is a low price, and with free introductory pricing and $10-per-month increments for additional users and usage tiers, pricing shouldn’t prove too big a hindrance.
Where Database.com might suffer is for webscale applications requiring NoSQL tools to handle massive scale and mountains of unstructured data, but no product can be everything to everyone.
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