Salesforce starts to connect the dots, launches combined Force, Heroku and Lightning cloud

How many clouds does one company need? Sometimes consistency is worth its weight in gold. Salesforce starts to move towards this goal.

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff
Credit: IDGNS Boston

Over the past eight or so years that I've been covering Salesforce, I've grown increasingly numb to the sheer number of different "clouds" it sells. There is, of course, the Salesforce Sales Cloud, but that has been joined by the Service Cloud, the Community Cloud, the Marketing Cloud, the Analytics Cloud, etc., etc. A few of us Salesforce watchers have been saying for a while now that perhaps the time has come to combine some of these clouds so that customers can get a consistent and coherent product mix.

That would seem to be starting, and in the lead-up to Salesforce's DreamForce event (disclosure: At the time of writing, Salesforce is a consulting client for Diversity Analysis. Salesforce covered my travel and expenses to attend the event), the company is announcing a new cloud, but one that creates a degree of unification across some other products.

The Salesforce App Cloud is touted as a unified platform for building connect applications and it integrates some existing products: Force, Heroku Enterprise and Lightning, along with a new shared service, Trailhead, which is an interactive learning environment to help App Cloud users understand and utilize the platform. The App Cloud can be seen as a natural extension of the Salesforce1 Platform, a development platform that, when it was introduced a couple of years ago, was seen as a good way of integrating social into mobile applications and harnessing Salesforce's core applications on mobile devices.

That iteration of Salesforce1, however, failed to really deliver a combined value proposition between Salesforce's traditional products and platforms (Chatter, Sales Cloud and the other Salesforce apps) and bespoke solutions created on yet another one of Salesforce's product offerings, Heroku. The key missing components to realize that value was the identity, data and network services needed to span the separate platforms.

The individual components that Salesforce is packaging up include:

  • Heroku Enterprise — Private Spaces, Regions, and Identity: Heroku Enterprise offers a more enterprise-friendly version of the Heroku platform as a service. Customers can run Heroku apps in dedicated private space that includes direct access to both Salesforce core applications and on-premises data from legacy systems. Companies can also specify the geographic location of their Heroku apps across data centers in Dublin, Frankfurt, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Northern Virginia and Oregon. Finally, the identity services being bundled up allow bidirectional data sync, single sign-on and role-based access controls.
  • Salesforce Lightning — Lightning is a framework and application builder that allows business users to create user experiences without code. Using prebuilt, reusable building blocks users can create their own interaction experiences
  • Trailhead — Trailhead is a new Salesforce product and is a kind of an interactive learning environment. As the name implies, Trailhead attempts to take App Cloud users through a series of steps in creating applications. Trailhead is important since App Cloud is Salesforce's attempt to connect the formerly disconnected worlds of developer app creation and business user app customization.

MyPOV

Salesforce has needed to tell a more coherent story about how Heroku plays within the broader Salesforce platform context. By rolling it into App Cloud and layering a fabric of identity and access controls over the top of it, Salesforce has gone a long way toward answering some of the criticism that people had about what was starting to feel like a very inconsistent developer approach. Of course Salesforce is still having to get lots of teams working together, and the availability for what should be a single product is an indication of that—- some of the Heroku pieces won't be available till next year while some of the App builder and components should be available (at least as pilot products) later this year. Launch dates notwithstanding, however, App Cloud looks like a pragmatic move for the company and hopefully indicates a reduction in overall platform complexity.

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