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This is a guest post written by Claude Johnson, a Lead Site Reliability Engineer at salesforce.com.

The following is an architectural overview of salesforce.com’s core platform and applications. Other systems such as Heroku's Dyno architecture or the subsystems of other products such as work.com and do.com are specifically not covered by this material, although database.com is. The idea is to share with the technology community some insight about how salesforce.com does what it does. Any mistakes or omissions are mine.

This is by no means comprehensive but if there is interest, the author would be happy to tackle other areas of how salesforce.com works. Salesforce.com is interested in being more open with the technology communities that we have not previously interacted with. Here’s to the start of “Opening the Kimono” about how we work.

Since 1999, salesforce.com has been singularly focused on building technologies for business that are delivered over the Internet, displacing traditional enterprise software. Our customers pay via monthly subscription to access our services anywhere, anytime through a web browser. We hope this exploration of the core salesforce.com architecture will be the first of many contributions to the community.

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Original author: 
Sean Gallagher

Original photo by Michael Kappel / Remixed by Aurich Lawson

Have a plan to steal millions from banks and their customers but can't write a line of code? Want to get rich quick off advertising click fraud but "quick" doesn't include time to learn how to do it? No problem. Everything you need to start a life of cybercrime is just a few clicks (and many more dollars) away.

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Read 63 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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girl pointing at screen

A pervasive myth exists among tech founders: If they build a product that consumers will love, it will magically trickle into Fortune 500 companies.

The logic works something like this: Devote the bulk of your funding to designing the product. CIO’s will fork over a piece of their sizable budget if enough employees get hooked and use it at work. Founders often tell me that just like cloud storage company Dropbox or enterprise social network Yammer, their product will be a hit with large organizations if it’s well-designed and easy to deploy.

Do a search for “Dropbox problem” or “Dropbox effect” and you’ll find thousands of articles. I agree that Dropbox has inspired more enterprise founders to experiment with freemium models or to build intuitive products, but it is not proof that a consumer-focused company can simply change focus to the enterprise without having to reengineer its technology from the ground up.

You can’t just ‘pivot’ to the enterprise

“Dropbox’s message is that business users want products that are simple and sexy,” said Ray Wang, the principal analyst and CEO of Constellation Research. That may be true, but according to Wang, to meet the needs of IT, you have to “do a lot more.”

For example, an enterprise startup needs a sales and support infrastructure to handle requests, and the product must be significantly more scalable and secure than a consumer product.

The “consumerization of the enterprise” trend is very real; it means that employees are embracing the latest mobile and social technology and applications, and they are bringing their own devices to work.

But this trend has not replaced traditional enterprise sales cycles. Even new-age startups like Yammer (recently acquired by Microsoft for $1.2 billion), which once spread the notion that big companies will embrace new technologies the same way that people do with consumer products, later hired a full enterprise sales and customer support team.

“It’s a beautiful story that has been spread by investors and founders,” said Mike Driscoll, the CEO of Metamarkets, a “big data startup” in San Francisco. Driscoll said that he is already on the hunt for a new sales executive, preferably with experience working for a legacy vendor like IBM or EMC.

Likewise Box, a Dropbox competitor, had to make sweeping changes before approaching the enterprise. It brought on adult supervision in the form of Whitney Tidmarsh Bouck, a former chief marketing officer at enterprise technology company EMC. To land big-name customers like The Gap and Volkswagen, Bouck said the startup needed “dedicated product marketers and resources.”

“It is our central point of focus,” she added. The product team had to incorporate scalability, integration and security controls, mobile technology, Active Directory support, and so on. Most importantly, she said, “it’s a long-term consultative sales approach that is a world apart from a consumer or SMB [small to medium-sized business] play.”

Ben Horowitz, the cofounder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz, was one of the first venture capitalists to dispel the myth. As he put it in a blog post:

Encouraged by the new trend, innovative entrepreneurs imagine a world where consumers find great solutions to help their employers in the same way that they find great products to help themselves. In the imaginary enterprise, these individuals will then take the initiative to convince their collegues to buy the solution. Through this method, if the product is truly great, there will be little or no need to actually sell it.

The actual enterprise works a bit differently. Meet the new enterprise customer. He’s a lot like the old enterprise customer.

Indeed, when employees set up accounts for consumer-focused services without permission, the IT department is at risk of losing control over corporate data, whether it’s emails, reports, or instant-messaging chatter. However, this does not mean that the IT executives will strike deals with these tech providers to preserve security and governance.

Sand Hill is part of the problem

Greg Piesco Putnam, cofounder of Aktana, an enterprise sales startup, told me that most venture capital firms accepted the Dropbox myth without question when he was raising funds.

“They were looking for stories of the consumerization of IT, and the entrepreneurs who told those stories raised big rounds,” he recalled. ”The question that was not asked was whether IT departments would actually respond to these user demands.” He explained that in the enterprise, startups need to convince at least three key decision-makers: IT, business, and operations.

Wang told me he often hears about high-performing, early-stage consumer startups that shift gears once their investors demand to see a solid business plan. Entrepreneurs are aware that their investors are angling for a piece of the trillion-dollar market for enterprise software.

“You get folks saying, I’m going to enterprise now to cover my butt, but the product might not have been designed for that,” said Wang, who draws a useful comparison to the adoption of email programs Lotus and Outlook. The latter was widely used in the enterprise despite its design flaws. “In the enterprise, the best sales and marketing wins, not the best product,” he said.

At the Disrupt conference in San Francisco, young enterprise founders from startups like Asana contested this point, clearly demonstrating that the myth is still pervasive.

“The distribution model has changed,” Asana‘s CEO Justin Rosenstein said, and he argued that the CIO is the end-user for enterprise software. “You don’t have to be sales-driven or marketing-driven; you have to be product-driven,” Rosenstein said. “It will be the best product that wins,” he added. Asana is a task management software started by former Facebook founder Dustin Moskovitz and Rosenstein, an former Google employee.

“Nothing is relatively different, it’s just evolved,” hit back Cloudera COO Kirk Dunn. Dunn is right to advise caution: a young company will not succeed without a full customer support and sales team. In the enterprise, product simply isn’t enough. “You can have a great product and great sales-focused company,” Todd McKinnon, the CEO of cloud startup Okta, offered as a conciliatory response.

At startup demo days and hackathons, young founders are slowly waking up to the importance of traditional enterprise sales. ”At the enterprise level, a great product doesn’t sell itself; it takes a great sales and marketing organization to engage buyers, procurement organizations, and IT departments to close a large enterprise deal,” said Mark Trang, the cofounder of SocialPandas, a CRM startup that recently debuted at Founders Den.

The roots of the ‘Dropbox myth’

Dropbox is a consumer startup and wasn’t build to store and share terabytes of sensitive data for a Fortune 500 company. As VentureBeat reported earlier, with its third major security breach this year, the fast-growing private company has become a problem child for chief information officers.

“We’re consistently replacing Dropbox in the enterprise,” Vineet Jain, the CEO of enterprise cloud storage startup Egnyte, told VentureBeat. “It’s incessantly used in enterprise until IT shuts it down.”

If you are selling to consumers or small companies that behave like consumers, moving away from the old enterprise sales and channel models may make perfect sense. However, if you plan to strike multimillion-dollar deals with enterprise companies, the chief information officer is still the chief decision-maker.

In short, the Dropbox model didn’t even work for Dropbox.

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larry ellison

Editor’s note: Aaron Levie is CEO of Box. Follow him on Twitter @levie.

In 1997, Larry Ellison had a vision for a new paradigm of computing which he called the Network Computer (NC). The idea was simple: a group of partners would build devices and services that leveraged the power of the Internet to compete against the growing Windows monopoly.

Ellison believed that the computer in the client/server era had evolved into too complex a machine for most tasks. With the NC, the ‘heavy’ computation of software and infrastructure would be abstracted from the actual device and delivered instead to thinner terminals via the web, thus radically simplifying access and enabling all new applications and mobility.

But the NC never made it mainstream. Microsoft and its allies had already amassed considerable power, and the cost of personal computers was dropping rapidly, making them even more attractive and ubiquitous. Furthermore, many of the applications were too immature to compete with the desktop software experience at the time; and few people, as it turned out, wanted to buy a device championed by Oracle.

The NC fell short on execution, but Ellison was right about the vision: “It’s the first step beyond personal computing, to universal computing.” In many ways, he was the first to glimpse a future resembling the post-PC world we are rapidly moving towards today.

15 years later, it is Apple that has brought its version of this vision to life. And Apple’s rising tide – already 172 million devices strong, sold in the last year alone – has in turn given rise to a massive, vibrant ecosystem: companies generating hundreds of millions and billions of dollars in value in under a few years, revolutionizing industries like gaming, social networking, entertainment and communications in the process. Then of course there’s Instagram.  All proving that value created in this mobile and Post-PC world will rival traditional computing categories.

But the post-PC transformation isn’t limited to the consumer landscape. In the enterprise, we’re transitioning to a way of working that is far more fluid, boundary-less and social. And mobile pushes computing to the cloud and rewrites all applications in its wake. Those who saw it coming (Oracle) and those who initially resisted its arrival (Microsoft) have equally been taken by surprise by the power and speed of the post-PC shift within today’s enterprises, and it’s creating one of the biggest opportunities ever.

Why the change is so profound

We recently met with the IT leadership team of a fairly conservative 50,000-person organization where all the participants all had iPads. No big surprise there. But the apps they were using were radically different from what you would have found in their organization only a few years back – a mix of apps from a new set of vendors that together supplant the traditional Microsoft Office stack.

Post-PC devices are driving enterprises to rethink their entire IT architecture, thanks to a wildly unpredictable and improbable chain reaction set off by a new consumer device from Apple.  For the first time in decades, CIOs have the opportunity – and necessity – to completely re-imagine and rebuild their technology strategy from the ground up. Catalyzing this change is the fact that the technology switching costs are often less than the price of maintaining existing solutions. A shipment of 1,000 new iPads requires applications to run on these devices – and choosing all-new applications and vendors is generally cheaper than the service fees, infrastructure, and operational costs of legacy software.

And thus, the Post-PC era drives the final nail in the coffin of the traditional enterprise software hegemony. Microsoft, in particular, built up a practical monopoly that lasted nearly twenty years, and forced an entire industry to conform to its way of seeing the world.  Yet this arrangement served its benefactor far more than the ecosystem, as the Redmond giant built up leadership positions across nearly every application category.

In the Post-PC era, businesses will shift from deploying and managing end-to-end enterprise solutions from a single vendor, to consuming apps a la carte both as individuals and en masse. But which apps and vendors will help define this new world?

What’s coming won’t look like what came before

Change always begins incrementally at first. Predicting specifically what will happen in the next year or two is a far more realistic undertaking than anticipating where we’ll be in a decade. In shifting from one technology generation to the next, we minimize disruption by porting the old way of doing things to newer mediums or channels. Not until the new model settles in do we see the real results that rise from these foundational shifts.

Mobility is such a foundational shift, and it’s still very, very early. Even when the Microsofts and Oracles of the world relent and build applications for post-PC devices, these apps will carry much of the DNA of their desktop predecessors. We can imagine that each of the enterprise mainstays – ERP, HR management, supply chain, business intelligence, and office productivity – will be painstakingly moved to mobile. But that’s just the first phase.

Emerging CRM startups like Base will challenge longstanding assumptions about where and how you manage customer interactions. Data visualization software like Roambi will make business analytics more valuable by making it available everywhere. Entire industries are already being transformed: mobile healthcare apps will enable cutting-edge health outcomes, and construction sites will eventually be transformed by apps like PlanGrid.  Companies like CloudOn and Onlive aim to virtualize applications that we never imagined would be available outside the office walls. Evernote’s 20+ million users already make it one of the most popular independent productivity software apps of all time, whose value is dramatically amplified by this revolution.  In a mobile and Post-PC world, the very definition of the office suite is transformed.

And with this transformation, much of the $288B spent annually on enterprise software is up for grabs.  The post-PC era is about no longer being anchored to a handful of solutions in the PC paradigm. Instead, we’re moving to a world where we mix and match best-of-breed solutions. This means more competition and choice, which means new opportunities for startups, which should mean more innovation for customers. As soon as individual workers look to the App Store for an immediate solution to their problem instead of calling IT (who in turn calls a vendor) you can tell things will never be the same.

In many ways, the enterprise software shift mirrors that of the media and cable companies fighting for relevance in a world moving to digital content (HT @hamburger). If users and enterprises can select apps that are decoupled from an entire suite, we might find they’d use a completely different set of technology, just as many consumers would only subscribe to HBO or Showtime if given the option.

Of course, every benefit brings a new and unique challenge. In a world where users bring their own devices into the workplace, connect to any network, and use a mix of apps, managing and securing business information becomes an incredibly important and incredibly challenging undertaking. Similarly, how do we get disparate companies to build apps that work together, instead of spawning more data silos?  And as we move away from large purchases of suites from a single provider, what is the new business model that connects vendors with customers (both end users and IT departments) with minimal friction?

And then there’s the inherent fragmentation of devices and platforms that defines the post-PC era. Android, iOS, and Windows 7 and 8 all have different languages and frameworks, UI patterns, and marketplaces. The fate of mobile HTML5 is still indeterminate. Fragmentation and sprawl of apps and data is now the norm. And while this fragmentation is creating headaches for businesses and vendors alike, it’s also opening a window for the next generation of enterprise software leaders to emerge and redefine markets before the industry settles into this new paradigm.

It would appear that Larry Ellison’s vision for the NC was right all along, just 15 years early. Welcome to the post-PC enterprise.

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Signs are emerging that Google is de-emphasizing its efforts in online productivity tools that compete with Microsoft, which was never the core of its business to being with, to focus even more on search and social networking, and its increasing competition with Facebook.

This shift in emphasis is reflected in some notable departures, as well as in a reorganization of the division that oversees the development of Google Apps, which include online office productivity tools that compete with Microsoft Office. Google continues to add functionality to Google Apps, but most of the functionality has either been in the works for years, or borrows from other existing products such as Google+.

Google Apps for businesses includes Web-based word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications that the company hosts on its own computers and offers to companies for $50 a user, per year. The suite became popular among smaller businesses looking to transition from Microsoft Office software, which is hosted on company computers and requires maintenance from an IT staff.

Google Apps has had some churn to its core leadership as the company evolves under CEO Larry Page, including the loss of Dave Girouard as vice president of Apps and president of Google’s Enterprise business. Girouard, who joined Google in 2004, oversaw the development and launch of Apps for businesses. He left April 6 and no successor has been named.

Google
Amit Singh

A source familiar with Google Apps told CIO Journal: “I was personally shocked to see Dave G leave. That was his baby, and he was so invested in it.”

Girouard himself downplayed his exit in an e-mail to CIO Journal: “Google has an amazingly deep bench and the Enterprise biz has never been doing better.” Girouard left to launch a startup.

Other key Google Apps employees have also left the company or been reassigned to other projects. Matt Glotzbach, a product management director at Google Apps who was often the public face of the suite when Girouard wasn’t available, became managing director of Google’s YouTube unit in Europe last June. Apps also lost its top two Google public relations managers. Mike Nelson moved to Japan to lead Google’s public relations team there last year. Andrew Kovacs left earlier this year to run public relations for Sequoia Capital.

Tom Sarris, who replaced Kovacs three months ago as the public relations manager for Google Apps, told CIO Journal in early April he has not yet met with Sundar Pichai, who oversees the Google Apps business, among other responsibilities.

The executive exodus at Apps follows a restructuring of the Google Enterprise business under Page. Last summer, Page split the Google Enterprise business into two units — an Apps unit uniting Google’s consumer and business product teams, and another unit that focuses exclusively on selling Apps to businesses. Under this change, Girouard reported to Pichai, who manages the Google Chrome and Apps businesses. Amit Singh, responsible for sales of Apps to businesses, reports to Nikesh Arora, senior vice president and chief business officer at the company.

The split may seem confusing, but Singh told CIO Journal Page restructured the enterprise business to help the Apps product teams focus on development, leaving Singh and his team to sell the software to businesses.

To be sure, Apps appears to be in solid shape today. More than 4 million businesses rely on Google software to support their collaboration efforts, though Google said only hundreds of thousands of those companies are paying customers. The company in the last few months secured two large, paid contracts, including BBVA bank, which will put its 110,000 employees on Apps this year, and healthcare provider Roche Group, which agreed to put its 90,000 workers on the software.

And customers appear to be pleased with the software, which gained over 200 features in 2011 alone. Ahold, a large retailer based in Amsterdam, has been using Google Apps for its 55,000 employees in Europe and the U.S. since 2010, according to a company spokesman. Joe Fuller, CIO for Dominion Enterprises, said he has been pleased with his Apps implementation since he moved his 4,000 employees from Microsoft Office to Apps this year.

Google’s Singh said Girouard essentially incubated Apps as an enterprise business within Google. But now  the company is focusing on scaling the business. “Instead of seeing one large [customer] name a quarter, you’ll start to see several a quarter.” Singh also told CIO Journal Google would consider sensible acquisitions to prop up the Apps business.

Even so, the recent Apps management and stewardship changes are accompanied by a subtle shift in Google’s focus. Google’s application portfolio has broadened since Apps were introduced to include products such as Chrome and Android, which are key to the company’s mobile ambitions. When Google published Page’s update on its business for investors last week, Page touted products primed to fuel Google’s advertising revenues, including search, Android mobile software, Chrome, and Google+, the company’s new social network.

Page didn’t address the momentum of the Google Apps suite, and only referenced Gmail, the Web-based e-mail application that forms the core of Apps’ communications for businesses, as an afterthought: “And our enterprise customers love it too. Over 5,000 new businesses and educational establishments now sign up every day.”

For now, Google is still adding functionality to Google Apps. The company recently launched an archiving application that had been in development for years. A source familiar with Google Apps’ product road map said Apps users can expect the company to integrate Google+ social functionality with Google Apps over the course of 2012. Google could also more tightly integrate Apps with notebook computers based on its Chrome Operating System, the source said.

Google’s Enterprise business has historically only accounted for roughly 3% of the company’s annual revenues, with the lion’s share provided by advertising.

Microsoft has also developed a Web-based version of its Office suite, called Office 365. The suite has drawn favorable reviews from users and analysts, and is beginning to win some customers from Google. Chandris Hotels and Resorts and beauty care company Naturally Me recently said they chose Microsoft over Google Apps.

IDC analyst Melissa Webster, who talks to customers of both Apps and Office software, says more customers could join that exodus, especially if Google finds itself challenged in areas it considers more strategic, such as social, search and advertising.

“I could see Google Apps de-emphasized, or just not funded that aggressively,” Webster told CIO Journal. On the other hand, “Microsoft is and has always been an enterprise software vendor — they’re in it and committed for the long haul, that’s their DNA and Office is a strategic product line,” Webster noted.

Correction: CIO Journal incorrectly listed Contoso as a company that picked Microsoft over Google Apps. We regret the error.

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It's been quite a while in the making, but I am very pleased with the news today that Adobe will be embedding Alfresco technology as part of its LiveCycle Suite. A while ago, I wrote a blog about embeddable content repositories. It was clear then and more clear now that the old generation of content repositories is not really designed to be embedded as part of content-oriented applications. Yet, we all know that there is more information in content than there is in databases. Why can't applications use a set of services for managing content the way they manage data in embedded databases?

On this particular news, ComputerWorld reports Raja Hammond, Group Manager for Adobe LiveCycle, as saying, "Alfresco has a fantastic lightweight installation. It
is J2EE server-based, so it is very much aligned with our architecture.
We're able with this release to totally embed it. We've done extensive
customization to the UIs to add additional capabilities to them. We've
integrated them tightly with the various solution components within
LiveCycle."

At InfoWorld, Brian Wick, Director of Product Marketing at Adobe said, "It's much easier, much quicker for our customers to build LiveCycle apps with the content services piece built in." This should be the sentiment of any product manager whose product handles content. This clearly the case of LiveCycle which handles potentially huge numbers of PDFs and forms.

Over at CMS Watch, Alan Pelz-Sharpe, a long-time ECM observer, blogged on the announcement that, "It's been a while since there was a big product announcement in the ECM world, but today's announcement by Adobe that they will be embedding Alfresco into their LiveCycle Enterprise Suite will doubtless garner a few headlines. Alfresco, the UK-based open source ECM company, has certainly done a great job of marketing themselves since their launch a couple of years back, stealing some limelight from more established and much bigger vendors such as Interwoven, Vignette, and OpenText. The question we have to ask is whether this announcement is another marketing
  triumph, or whether it suggests something more substantial. First off is the fact that it is a real OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) deal, and the technology will actually get embedded into the Adobe offering, so it is more than simply a paper partnership."

It is also significant that the Alfresco platform is open source. Open source allowed Adobe and our dozens of other OEMs to try out Alfresco before even approaching us. Open source also provides a level of comfort and confidence in a platform for services like content services and content repository. It is much better than providing code in escrow. it actually provides a community as well to ensure the long-term success of the platform.

We look forward to a fruitful and simbiotic relationship with Adobe. We believe that this is the beginning of looking at content management as a peer of database management of an essential component of any enterprise-class application. Congratulations to Adobe on all the hard work and the new release.

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