What does Salesforce.com's announcement about Apex, their new programming language, mean for the market? How does the announcement affect current Salesforce.com customers?
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Apex continues the market trend in moving beyond configurations to extensive customizations of Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms. Apex is somewhat unique among SaaS programming languages in that it not only allows for the development of customizations specific to your application instance, but also provides an online marketplace (AppExchange) of shared applications to leverage as-is, or as components of your own custom applications.
Apex, in part, may be a competitive answer to more complete SaaS offerings like NetSuite Inc. that include ERP and e-commerce modules. If you are a sales and service-focused organization and a heavy user of Salesforce.com, it might be tempting to extend your platform into other business functions, including finance and HR. Proceed with caution though, as Apex is not yet proven in the marketplace (think scalability) and is viewed by some as a proprietary framework intended to lock in customers to the Salesforce.com platform.
Ultimately, you'll have to decide if the value of consolidating or introducing non-CRM functionality to the Salesforce.com platform outweighs the benefits and flexibility of a best-of-breed, hybrid application model. One thing is for sure though – SaaS providers will continue to encourage enterprises and systems integrators to push the envelope with regard to customizations, further blurring the line between the capabilities of SaaS and on-premise CRM applications.
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