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Wag the dog

David Berlind:


Last October, shortly after salesforce.com started pushing its Apex platform, I pointed out what makes that platform truly unique. As far as I know, it’s the only business computing cloud that can host code developed by you. In other words, you can write software that taps the very business-oriented APIs of Apex and that code can run on salesforce.com’s systems (instead of your own). The key advantage of this approach is that scalability and reliability — the stuff associated with running hardware — are not your problem. They’re salesforce.com’s.

You could argue that this is no different than what Amazon is doing with EC2 or what the outcome would be if you turned to a Windows or Linux hosting outfit. But it is different. Whereas systems delivered from those environments have no intrinsic business value, the Apex platform is loaded with business oriented APIs for lifeblood functions like salesforce automation and customer relationship management.

Arguing that EC2 has no intrinsic business value, is like arguing that an electrical grid or a telephone network has no intrinsic business value. Speculation: one reason business systems can't adapt is because the assumptions about what the business used to do, are embedded deep in the code. Very deep, not easy to pull out. And not just in the code but in the physical architecture the system is running on. Business "logic" is like bindweed - by the time you've pulled it out, you've ripped out half the garden as well.

At a stretch, I'd say Joe Gregorio's recent theme of "N=1" is driven by not thinking about computing the way we think about electricity - where "n-tiered" is akin to "watermill". As strange as might sound, businesses might get more value from computer systems once those systems stop being optimized around transient business requirements or features. You can customize things, but only above the infrastructure. That seems to be part of the pitch for something like EC2.


July 31, 2007 09:24 AM

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