The Village View

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

AppExchange Seminar in NYC

I spent most of Tuesday afternoon at the Salesforce.com AppExchange Seminar at the Hilton in midtown. Hung out most of the time with Jason Wood which was interesting and a lot of fun. I enjoyed talking software with him and I think it's safe to say we're both generally fans of AppExchange (with some reservations of course). Here's a bit of what I observed and some things I found interesting (not exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination):

  • Walked in a bit late on a presentation by Morris Panner, CEO of OpenAir
    • provider of professional services automation software
  • a few random notes on this presentation since i came in late
    • Generated a ton of leads since developing AppExchange solution
      • 5X increase in the number of Salesforce.com customers interested in solution since launching AppExchange version
      • Leads are extremely qualified
        • 50% of leads are "active" deals or conducting detailed evaluation
    • OpenAir is about a year into SFdC experience
    • sales cycle is 60-180 days
    • AppExchange helped them win 5 deals in first 60 days
      • overcame objections around integration
    • Increased global "presence" as 30% of leads are from outside US
      • Salesforce.com has been helping them make contact with integrators overseas
    • either just signed or in pipeline - Software AG
      • 2700 seats
      • "unimaginable opportunity for us"
      • up against SAP
    • The user experience matters
      • UI leads to a "wow" factor
      • AppExchange ratings matter (called it the "ebay effect")
      • have a person in charge of managing their AppExchange presence
    • SFdC is "straight forward" and "easy to work with"
      • Initially no certificates or courses to take
      • His developers say the API is easy to work with
      • Gets harder as you build your product out
      • Every quarter OpenAir spends equivilent of 1-2 weeks on the AppExchange product
        • Customer requirements
        • iterating "as you go"
        • No full time engineer dedicated to AppExchange
          • part of the integration persons responsibility
    • Question from audience: aren't you worried about the API and your risk?
      • Answer: structure of API is amenable to working together with SFdC


  • First after lunch presentation by Steve Fisher, SVP of AppExchange & chairman of salesforce.com's Technology Architecture Committee
    • showed a slide stating SFdC has 99.9% uptime. I don't think most customers can hold them to this as I understand that they dont' offer SLAs as standard operating procedure (some of the larger clients have likely negotiated this).
    • Goal of the AppExchange platform is to leverage the investment they made in security, mult-tenancy and reliability
    • One of the big lessons SFdC learned was to be transparent which is why they set up trust.salesforce.com. (Ok, then why not go ahead and offer SLAs too??)
    • Two main things that make AppExchange platform work
      • Query Optimization Engine (Salesforce.com built their own)
        • b/c databases aren't any easy or fast way to retreive/store data in ways that SFdC wants to use it, they built the query optimizer
      • Meta-data layer
        • defines relationships between what customer sees and physical, real schema
      • These two features/functions makes it feel "like customers have their own system."
    • Salesforce.com "integrates well with other systems"
      • Key: the standards-based Web Services API
        • SQL-like syntax into the meta-data layer
      • Allows for integration with SAP, Oracle, Siebel, Desktop, Mobile et al.
    • Slide: "Mash up - the Business Web is Here"
      • examples shown: Google Maps, Skype (initiate call right from SFdC), Google AdWords mgt including ROIs from Kieden which was pretty cool.
    • "You get more stuff for free with AppExchange platform then with others e.g., .NET"
      • Both presenters must have used the word free 70-80 times. He is NOT referring to the OEM version which is $25/mth/user.
      • Here are a few of the things your get for "free" in SFdC, but evidently not in others: security & sharing model, API services, multi-language & multi-currency, UI services, mobile & offline, dashboard and workflow.
    • 3 types of Apps
      • Native
        • Meta-data driven
        • Custom objects
        • Salesforce.com UI
        • Examples: data apps, bug tracking, asset tracking
        • Native Apps are "configured" more than "coded"
      • Composite
        • Lives on the client's server
        • Leverages SFdC's data model
      • Client
        • End user need access SFdC application directly, but may be using a product like Outlook
    • Sandbox
        • development as a service
        • Fully replicated production environment for dev/test
    • Repeated several times that Salesforce.com wants ISVs to leverage the fact that they have solved a lot of hard problems around developing a scalable, stable platform

  • Second Presentation by Adam Gross, Vice President Developer Marketing
    • Asked how many in attendance were interested in developing for internal clients vs how many were ISVs looking to create Apps to re-sell.
      • vast majority were ISVs
    • Just caught the tail end of a dig against SAP; something about client/server in the 90s.
    • Native Platform features
      • Data
        • Custom & standard objects
        • CRUD & sharing
        • Relationships
        • Field (data) types
      • Business Logic (workflow)
        • Notifications (add a task)
        • Alerts (Send an email)
        • Assignement rules
        • Pre- and post-save, validation rules
      • User Interface (Metadata layouts)
        • Layouts
        • Custom Tabs
        • Record Types
    • Composite Platform features
      • Data
        • Composite - anything that uses the API
        • SOAP web services API
          • Object API as opposed to lower level data API
            • Java & .Net objects
          • API is hook into data side
        • API will appear like a database - "lots of nouns & few verbs"
        • enterprise vs. partners WSDL
        • SOQL - (Sforce Object Query Language) similar to SQL
        • DB replication
        • External db
      • Business Logic
        • S controls
          • hooks into UI
          • lets you present apps that run on your own server appear in SFdC UI
    • More on S Controls
      • Two types: Hooks & Targets
        • Hooks - referencing into Apps
          • eg custom links, web tabs, image fields
        • Targets - what is being invoked
          • web controls

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