Valid concerns. ning has a much better approach worth some analysis. You're allowed to take you code and go home.
With SalesForce, it is typical lock in, once invested, all you have is hope that salesforce will be smart enough not to poison the well by screwing its partners ..
++1 for Ning - Walled gardens are fine - if the walls are there to keep "the wrong people" [spammers] out. I think when they are used to keep customers captive they plant the seeds of defection...
Good post Dharmesh!
The link to HubSpot is broken. It contains an extra "http://" at the end. Nice article.
Good post. As SAAS start up developping an application for a small niche, we are currently evaluating where to finally develop and host our software. There are other Saas platforms besides force.com, as Etelos and Apprenda with similar functionality . These two platforms have also their good and bad points, similar to the ones you mentioned. But funny enough, few blogs and magazines talk about them.
Deciding whick platform to use if any, is a difficult decision to make and I would really appreciate if someone has made a comparison among Saas platforms that could help us taking the decision.
Sooner i am coming up with SaaS....which will surly create a good marketplace....currently i am developing prototype...and dont have a proper bussiness model...and also looking out for investors....
I've always tried to separate value (is this something the customer must have at any cost) from value proposition (value/cost). It's very easy to get into the pricing and costs questions prematurely, and I've worked with many early stage companies that blow through their core worth, assuming that what they've specified or built must have a strong pricing and margin story. My take is that if you can find an application that is valuable, the platform play is a reasonable strategy to get to the market fast.
Choose your platform vendor very carefully, but I do believe there are good answers to a lot of these questions that don't invalidate the idea of Platforms as a Service. I'm with you that Force raises more questions than it answers.
Here are my thoughts on the problem:
For software entrepreneurs these are certainly valid concerns. However, there is an arguably larger market for PaaS consisting of non-programmers -- i.e. web-savvy business users with either specific business requirements or perhaps ideas for entirely new business apps -- who do not have the skills or financial resources to build, manage or even host their own software.
PaaS vendors such as Rollbase www.rollbase.com
- disclaimer: self-promotion) allow non-programmers to quickly build enterprise apps without writing code, for either internal use or distribution to a target market. This kind of DIY approach, rather than being a threat let alone a peril to software developers, opens up entirely new opportunities for businesses and individuals without the resources or know-how to deal with software development. In this context building out a business on PaaS can be an attractive option where there simply was none, or very few, before.
I think the days are here now where you have to figure support for multiple platforms into your business model. I don't know what your business is but SF might be the way to go for you when you consider the alternatives. PS - SF might argue #2 with you; they can trot out very large customers as refernces when they need to.
You would be right, if SFDC were not evolving. For now, Force.com companies will remain tightly tied to SFDC customers and needs, and Appexchange related business issues. That means you won't built - at the present - a new Facebook or a new Flickr because those are not related to mainstream SFA/CRM needs. You won't be concerned about items 1-5 yet, as long as your company lives within the Force.com cocoon, sponsored by SFDC and in fact adding to the original SFDC power. As Force.com is evolving, the ecosystem will grow, tieing SFDC into companies larger than it, more powerful, in areas where SFDC has no control, and in an entangling way much different than the usual client/supplier relationship. If at some point, SFDC is tied with a large law firm and a financial company, I don't expect them to have the strength to "play" with touching at customer's data and features. Without going that far, I dont' see why technical differences between past platforms (Microsoft) and Web platforms (SFDC) would be reasons to imagine new ways of circumventing contracts which, I assume, are based on the same legal framework.
As to pricing, it has been evolving, I haven't read a reason why it would stop, or continue to be as flexible as it is.
Now, the main risk I see comes from SFDC employees themselves, being able to access every customers' data. I'd be scared to be a customer in a highly competitive market.
Interesting article Dharmesh! Something we could use while we're mapping out our SaaS strategies.
Good article on PaaS.
I think it will be difficult for PaaS vendors to sell the concept to B2B ISVs. ISVs have often had real problems convincing themselves that is OK to use 3rd party components in their products. These doubts were amplified when the first development tools appeared with proprietary runtime systems.
PaaS moves dependency to a new level. The ISV will be totally reliant on the PaaS vendor for both the tools and the deployment. They are really putting all of their eggs in the one basket. There are positive aspects of PaaS, but for commercial ISVs I think the risk of lock-in to a specific PaaS will make them stop and think long and hard.
On the other hand, there can be an interesting market for a standards-based development tool combined with a PaaS offer. This is the market the Ruby on Rails hosting companies are addressing. When using a standard tool an ISV has the option (at least in theory) of moving from one PaaS vendor to another. They may never use this option, but it will certainly help during the sales process to know that there is a way out.
Great post Dharmesh.
My product is SaaS and I have been examining this space carefully. The Amazon cloud allows you to upload a virtual image of your linux products up to the cloud and pay based on how much cpu that you use. And you can flip a switch and be hosted on another continent. I like that.
With force.com you now have a business partner. That could be problematic. But the risks could be offset by getting to market sooner. If you are really successful, you should immediately implement a backup strategy. As long as you have the domain name you can point to whereever you want.
One of my questions is how are they going to really make money off me if my product is not about 'users'?
If I decide to build a real estate management application and I have 3 users and thousands of people searching listings all day long, am I going to be punished with an excess hit switch?
Frankly, if force.com decided to charge a percentage of what you charge your own client, I think they might hit it off better.
I'll disagree with you that force.com is mainly suited for startups. Large corporates have joined the band wagon because of the flexiblity and effeciency the platform offers. However Force.com certainly needs to work on its pricing models and streamlining of the platform. At first glance it looks more like a maze, all in all it has great potential.