Salesforce.com opens up platform to the ISV channel

Salesforce.com opened up the underlying technology that powers its suite of cloud-based line of business offerings to its partners last week at the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.

In addition to better access to Salesforce’s technology stack – a rapidly expanding set of Web-based tools that the firm has used to build cloud-based software for sales teams, marketing professionals, human resources managers, and developers – partners can expect a new AppExchange Checkout feature. That will offer the channel turn-key billing for light-weight apps that customers use to relieve specific pain points.

Salesforce’s AppExchange network for independent service vendors (ISVs) has been slowly exposing more underlying technology over the years since its launch, says Ross Piper, senior vice-president of enterprise strategy and alliances at Salesforce.com. Now the platform is so exposed that partners will enjoy full visibility into customers’ environments and exercising more control over their apps.

“It’s as if it’s their own technology completely,” he says. “We’ve exposed more of that capability of how we manage our own applications to ISVs.”

The Salesforce.com code base is shared amongst its partners and non-profit clients. The AppExchange has grown 25 per cent since last year to now include 1,700 ISVs contributing to the platform, which is similar to Apple’s App Store for its mobile devices. Customers connected to AppExchange have made 1.4 million app downloads, and Salesforce wants to see more.

To start, ISVs can expect access to Chatter, the social networking layer that rests on top of Salesforce’s own applications. Even partners who’ve previously developed apps on the platform will be easily able to upgrade their solutions to include Chatter, Piper says. It beats building this stuff on your own, he says.

“A lot of [ISVs] will talk about building that sort of capability in years, and launching on our platform in just months,” Piper says in an interview at Dreamforce.

Customers of Salesforce.com are able to buy or subscribe to the apps available in AppExchange. Salesforce.com takes no additional commission from those sales, Piper says. The incentive for the “social enterprise” firm is to lure its users to buy a licence to gain access with a growing platform of apps.

“The ISVs to us are a huge source of customer success,” he says. “It’s built into our model of how we engage.”

Salesforce encourages its ISVs to use a subscription model for selling apps on the exchange as that encourages good customer service, Piper says. But one-time payments and freemium models can work too. The AppExchange is global and multi-lingual, available for Canadians to sell into.

Chatter will be available on the AppExchange in the spring of 2013, according to Salesforce. Other new features to expect by next summer include:

– Security review automation

– AppExchange Answers

– Site.com apps and streamline publishing.

Three major releases per year are typically made to the AppExchange platform.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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