Salesforce.com DreamForce 07 - Global Gathering

by Bruce Elgort

Earlier this week I was in San Francisco attending my second Salesforce.com DreamForce conference. DreamForce 07 was Salesforce’s fifth global gathering. This year’s event was again held at the Moscone Center however, the event had to be held in the larger Moscone North and South halls due to the significant increase in attendance. This year there were over 7,000 attendees, from 42 countries. There were over 200 sessions covering all aspects of the Salesforce platform including many on the new features announced during the keynotes.

Marc Benioff kicked off the opening general session and thanked customers and developers for helping Salesforce become the “on demand” powerhouse that it is today. Salesforce.com has had 23 major releases in the past 8 years, has over 35,300 customers and 900,000 licensed users. Benioff also noted that while they had 23 major releases – none of them were “disruptive”. If you have never had to upgrade an SAP or Exchange installation and cause some major disruption to your organization consider yourself lucky.

Many new product announcements were made during the keynote and the biggest one is that the new name for the on demand “platform” that runs Salesforce.com has been rebranded to “Force.com”. This move now decouples the CRM/SFA from the rich application development platform that “Force.com” provides. Developing custom applications not linked to CRM/SFA has been a feature of Salesforce for quite a long time, however companies can now purchase “the platform” without having to purchase SFA, Service and Support and other applications.

A good example of how developing an application on Force.com for Walt Disney was given by Benioff where he showed that Microsoft quoted 3,000 hours to complete an application to track Mickey Mouse appearances while Salesforce completed the application in 96 hours. Benioff also through some punches at SAP, Oracle, IBM and other vendors saying that client server computing was so 1990’s.

There are now over 34,200 applications on the Salesforce AppExchange. Imagine being able to write an application and then push it to an online marketplace to be shared with others for either purchase or open source. There are over 355 ISV’s who have applications up on the AppExchange. Installing an application from the AppExchange is easy and straightforward. An application gets installed right into your instance of Salesforce.

Visualforce which is a new product coming in their Winter 08 release will allow modifications of the classic Salesforce.com tabbed UI to whatever you want. Now Salesforce applications can be surfaced on devices such as Blackberry, iPhone, PC’s etc. You can also use Visualforce to modify what appears on a Salesforce page. You can now for example create an account and contact and opportunity all on one screen.

Also new new in the Winter 08 release are inline editing of record content. No need to enter edit mode, report column headers can now be fixed when scrolling through pages of data, A new Salesforce Content application to help organizations manage content libraries and also the inclusion of Salesforce ideas application which is based on Salesforce’s IdeaExchange application. Tagging and RSS will also find their way into Winter 08.

One thing that has truly impressed me working as a Salesforce developer over the last year is the number of toolkits and resources available for developers. One click Eclipse plugins, PHP toos, .Net tools, Web Services interfaces. You name it Salesforce provides you with a way to get at the Force.com platform.

If you visit the Salesforce Application Developer Network (ADN) you can register for a free account whereby you can begin immediately to develop applications.

I expect that next years conference will draw well over 10,000 attendees. The ecosystem being creating around Salesforce is growing very quickly. There were over 200 vendors in the product showcase this year. One thing I liked about the product showcase was the way they grouped vendors by product categories. This was very helpful. The product showcase also provided lots of couches and meeting areas which made the whole showcase seem very comfortable and inviting.

Now the question that I need to ask is how many companies are still not confident in "software as a service" type of applications such as Salesforce?

Comments

Nice review.
Did you go to technical sessions and did you learn new tricks? How does this conference compare to Lotusphere? Seems that the numbers are close. I'm sure there's a sense of excitement.

Curt Stone, 2007-09-21

Thanks Curt. The sessions I took at DreamForce were all technical. Prior to the show I took two full day classes. One course was on the Apex programming language (all done using Eclipse) and the other on all of the other course covered various ways to develop applications within Force.com as well as developing apps that call web services, interfacing the Force.com with other systems and much more.

The sessions themselves lacked the polish and professionalism of session speakers at Lotusphere. Too often speakers would call up 3-4 other speakers to demo stuff. In one session the development team spent 10 minutes patting each other on the back about some of the new features they developed.

As I mentioned in the post I did like the format of the Product Showcase. Coffee and other refreshments could always be easily found throughout the entire day. Having couches and comfy chairs to hang right next to booths was also very nice. Vendor pedestals were also very accomodating to vendor/attendee dialog.

What kind of work have you done with Salesforce Curt?

Bruce Elgort, 2007-09-21

One thing that I forgot to mention was how much Force.com reminds me of Lotus Notes and in particular how easy it is to create on-demand web applications. Forms, views, formulas, integration with email, calendaring. I can only suggest that those who are considering Salesforce go and grab a free developer account and kick the tires. Then go and pull down some applicatons from the AppExchange and then it will all click.

Adobe Flex is also becoming a standard way of developing apps within Force.com

It's quite fun!

Bruce Elgort, 2007-09-21

Good review.

> Now the question that I need to ask is how many companies are still
> not confident in "software as a service" type of applications such as
> Salesforce?


I work for the worlds largest insurance company, and we love software as a service - only we have to serve it up ourselves.

Obviously, we will end in a world where we are always connected, and thick clients and replication, is a thing of the past.

The Salesforce.com model will only grow, but I also think the Eclipse based client will replace MS Office, and be the bridge to the thin client computing utobia in 2010 :)

Villi Helgason, 2007-09-21

@Bruce
We have two applications on SalesForce.com. I push data to one from one of our Notes apps. The other one is in it's final month of development and it will replace one of our Notes apps. I've not yet been given the opportunity to try my hand at development. With 18 Notes apps, I'm just the "Notes" guy for now. :)

Curt Stone, 2007-09-24

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