Heroku Grows Up Under Salesforce.com’s Wing

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) star Heroku has grown up since Saleforce.com (s crm) bought it for $212 million in December, attracting the attention of some big names in systems integration and enterprise consulting through the Heroku Partner Program, including Accenture and Pivotal Labs. The traction among firms willing to make Heroku the PaaS of choice for helping their enterprise customers deploy Ruby applications in the cloud helps validate Heroku’s approach to cloud computing, and it’s just another way life for Heroku is changing for the better since becoming part of the Salesforce.com cloud family.

Heroku CEO Byron Sebastian calls the Accenture partnership a “key endorsement” for Heroku because of Accenture’s credibility within large enterprises, but getting in with companies’ channel partners is a smart move for cloud providers regardless of how big the names they have are. Systems integrators, consultants and the like are trusted voices that might be able to make or break any given business’ decision to move an application to the cloud or build a new application there. In the case of Heroku, Sebastian says, those are usually customer-facing web, mobile or other modern application types, and lines of business within a company will look to their channel partners to help them build the best-possible applications.

Overall, Sebastian said, “things really couldn’t be going better” since Salesforce.com snatched up his company. Being part of a large and respected company has opened a lot of doors and placed Heroku in front of bigger customers having bigger discussions than it could have pulled off beforehand, he said. Heroku had already proven itself as a leading PaaS offering for Ruby apps before it got acquired, but having Salesforce.com’s resources and reputation to leverage certainly has helped business, including in making companies like Accenture feel comfortable enough to build client applications atop the platform.

Part of the added benefits are technological, too. Sebastian says Heroku already connects to Salesforce.com’s Force.com and Database.com services via API, which should please existing Salesforce.com customers, at least, and Sebastian promises more advances to come in the coming months.

Not everything has been perfect for Heroku, though, including a public security snafu in January. A customer notified Heroku of a security vulnerability, which it subsequently fixed and then, to its credit, shared the details of the situation with customers. Heroku also has experienced a number of performance issues, all of which are explained and archived on its status.heroku.com site. “Issues tend to come up” whatever you’re doing, Sebastian, said, and Heroku believes that transparency is key “so it’s not a block box and people don’t really know what’s going on.” As I’ve said before, transparency will probably allay hard feelings at this stage in the development of PaaS, but it might not cut it as more enterprise applications, mission-critical or not, find their way to platforms like Heroku and those customers demand availability and security without issue.

As Sebastian acknowledged, though, everything Heroku is experiencing will only lead to more PaaS competition as large vendors and startups alike seize onto the customer demand for PaaS and realize they can learn from what Heroku is doing. Whether it’s a once-in-a-decade transformation as Sebastian characterizes it, comparable with the switch to the client-server model in the ’90s, he’s definitely right about the competition. Heroku already has competition from well-funded startups like DotCloud, cloud leaders like Amazon Web Services (s amzn) (which appears to be planning its own Ruby-based PaaS offering via a partnership with Engine yard) and IT giants such as Microsoft (s msft), and that list will only keep expanding.