Salesforce’s DreamForce developer conference opens Monday morning with the announcement of a new Force.com Sites service. Sites is a new business for Salesforce, potentially extending the thousands of Force.com applications by pushing application data to the Web over Salesforce servers. The new service leverages Force.com’s VisualForce UI construction tools as well as Force.com’s logic, security, integration, and customization services.
While this is more a point upgrade to the platform in terms of revenue and customer acquisition than a major transition, it does signal the willingness to expand Force.com’s cloud into hybrid applications that span both internal enterprise customers and the customers of those applications. In doing so, Salesforce becomes even more of a channel for larger cloud players such as Google and Amazon, and even Microsoft to the extent that Force.com developers are free to integrate services such as Mesh and even Silverlight.
Although Marc Benioff dismisses such an alliance, he’ll have to work fast to expand Force.com outward as Microsoft comes after him from the outside in. Fertile ground may lie in harnessing Google apps and realtime services to populate Sites-enabled applications with smart information services based on targeted user behavior derived from Gmail, Google Reader, IM, and micromessaging. Salesforce can provide tomorrow’s Azure services today while using fear of Microsoft overwhelming the industry again to encourage Google and other RIA cloud players such as Adobe to federate around Salesforce as a rallying point for the enterprise.