When Chatter goes live today, every Force.com app has the option of becoming social. Has any development platform, ever before, done so much for so many at so little cost?
Chatter is the inarguable existence proof for definitive strengths of true cloud platforms. Developers may have noticed already, over the past few years, that their Force.com apps were getting incrementally better at a surprisingly rapid and consistent pace: features like in-line editing, for example, got standing ovations when demonstrated at Dreamforce events with the statement, "This is what you said you wanted." Thanks to the inviolable separation of salesforce.com's code from developers' metadata customizations, this and many other new platform features could quietly manifest themselves in existing applications — but perhaps only a developer could be expected to appreciate how simply this was happening.
Chatter is a whole lot bigger. Every user who sees an intuitive, full-featured, real-time collaboration capability suddenly appear in an existing application seems likely to say, "How did you do that?" Only on a true cloud platform can the developer say, "I didn't have to. The platform did it for me." (The shrewd developer will more likely say, "I'm glad that I made it look easy.")
Anyone who still thinks it's smarter to build a cloudish capability in an on-premise data center must look at Chatter, and walk around it, and look again. Force.com developers, and the organizations that use their applications, did not need a capital budget to acquire additional servers. They did not need an upgrade budget to license a new software release. They did not need developer hours to perform regression tests. Their users will not require lengthy training — and any who would like to have some help with adoption will be able to get it at their convenience, on line, without needing to make time to show up for a traditional classroom session.
- Real clouds don't demand capital.
- Real clouds handle software stack maintenance at the other end of the wire, and at the service provider's expense, instead of making the application's owner do that work by remote control.
- Real clouds provide higher-function building blocks of services, instead of just a new place to build cathedrals out of toothpicks.
- Real clouds make secure and auditable connections easier to create, instead of making you tunnel out of your own fortress and tunnel back into every other.
- Real clouds have fast, smooth on-ramps to new devices like the iPad, instead of forcing developers to build their own.
Force.com developers already know these things. More developers should take the time to understand why these things make all the difference. Next year, why would you want to build apps any other way?
Tomorrow, or even today, why not start doing it better?
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