Heroku CEO Talks About Salesforce, Future

Salesforce.com’s decision to buy Heroku for $212 million seems to be a giving developers who use San Francisco-based startup’s platform a reason to wonder about the future of the popular Ruby-based platform. “I’m not sure how it’s going to be good for Heroku customers (like me) in the long-term,” wrote a developer on Hacker News. Another suggested perhaps it was time to look for other hosting options. The sentiments were echoed through the comment thread in response to the pending acquisition.

When I asked Heroku CEO Byron Sebastian about those comments, he said that nothing really is changing for the company. He and rest of the team are still going to be working from the same San Francisco location they currently call their home. None of the executives are leaving the company, and most importantly, Salesforce.com wants them to keep doing their thing.

“Salesforce.com is taking a more developer focus and that is the main reason they have been interested in working with us,” Sebastian told me earlier this morning. “For developers, nothing changes, not the pricing, or the focus.” Heroku has over 100,000 apps hosted on its platform. The company is likely to introduce new pricing plans based on specialized needs, much like its recently announced packages for Facebook app developers.

Sebastian pointed out that since Salesforce.com has been working with large enterprises for a long time and carries a seal of trust, it should make it easy for developers to get approvals from their corporate bosses. But that is some time in the future. Heroku is all about developers who are building apps (and companies) of tomorrow, and has benefitted from the growth of social and mobile apps.

For quite some time, Marc Benioff, CEO and Co-founder of Salesforce.com has coveted the developers who have been building social and mobile apps. At our Structure conference earlier this year, Benioff was pretty vocal about the future being social and mobile which he calls Cloud2. Salesforce.com’s own internal cloud efforts have had limited success, and have drawn attention from more enterprise-centric developers.

However, Salesforce has been a big champion of Java. Salesforce.com’s decision to bet on Ruby is a sign that the upstart programming language is coming of age. “There is a philosophical shift at Salesforce.com,” said Sebastian. Open platforms and new language and over time supporting more clouds is going to be part of Salesforce.com’s future. The infrastructure-as-a-platform providers like Amazon (s AMZN), Force.com and Rackspace (s RAK) are the equivalent of hardware vendors like Dell (s DELL) and HP (s HPQ). “We are the software layer on top of that hardware and we are going to support more IaaS and are working on that,” Sebastian said.

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