Salesforce.com Heads Toward the Cloud

Salesforce.com made it clear today that it's not going to be left out of the cloud computing game. The company announced what it claims is the first complete set of tools and APIs to serve as building blocks for creating applications that exploit cloud computing.

The Force.com development-as-a-service tools and APIs are designed to provide access to the database, business logic and user interface functions of the Force.com platform. The new tools will help unite the productivity of development and IT collaboration tools with the capabilities of the company's Force.com platform-as-a-service. Force.com development-as-a-service contains the new Force.com metadata API, the Force.com integrated development environment (IDE), the Force.com Sandbox and the Force.com Code Share -- all of which are intended to help corporate and third-party developers build software-as-a-service flavored applications.

"Just as platform-as-a-service provides enterprise IT with a new model for platforms to run applications in the cloud, development-as-a-service provides a new model for development tools, giving developers the power to create applications for the cloud," said Marc Benioff, the chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com, in a prepared statement. Benioff said he believes the addition of development-as-a-service to the Force.com platform will help IT accelerate the transition from last-generation software to the new generation of services.

Company officials hope the new offerings will better enable IT organizations to do customized application development-as-a-service by way of the Internet, sidestepping the time and expense involved in deploying and maintaining infrastructure.

Force.com metadata API, Force IDE and Force.com Code Share are now in developer preview and can be downloaded free of charge at http://developer.force.com. Force.com Sandbox will come with the Unlimited Edition and is available for a fee with other editions.

Sun Gets Serious About Open Source
Sun Microsystems is apparently getting serious about entering the open source market. Real serious. The company slapped down a whopping $1 billion to buy MySQL, maker of one of the most popular open source databases on the market.

Sun officials must believe MySQL is worth every penny; during a press conference, Sun CEO and President Jonathan Schwartz called the deal the "most important" acquisition in Sun's long and storied history.

What Sun buys for its billion, at least for the short term, is entrée to MySQL's fairly large customer base, where Sun figures to have an excellent chance to sell its line of hardware. According to Schwartz, about 75 percent of MySQL installations run on hardware from Sun's major competitors. Approximately 20 percent of them run Sun's Solaris operating system, although the majority of MySQL databases run on Linux, company executives said. Sun officials said MySQL, which owns about half of the open source database market, has 400 large customers, with about 11 million users.

MySQL, which started over 12 years ago, has flourished financially as open source companies go. The company's business model has been to offer the source code of its products for free and than charge users for a wide variety of services and support. Some analysts put its revenues for 2007 in the $50 million range. The company's database product is part of the open source industry's standard software stack known as LAMP (Linux, Apache Web Server, MySQL and the PHP language).

Writing in his blog today, Schwartz said his company will offer technical support for MySQL's customers before the end of the year.

While some industry observers speculated that $1 billion was too much to pay for MySQL -- despite its position in the open source market -- others believed it portends good things for open source companies in general because it raises their overall market value and strategic worth.

The Sun-MySQL deal comes not long after two other acquisitions of open source companies by more established companies -- namely Citrix, which bought up XenSource for about $500 million, and Yahoo, which gobbled up Zimbra for around $350 million.

The two companies announced that MySQL CEO Marten Mickos will become a member of Sun's senior executive team once the deal closes.

Microsoft Alerts Users to New Excel Vulnerability
More good news for Microsoft users: The company has put out an advisory warning that hackers have discovered a vulnerability in Excel and are beginning to exploit it.

Apparently, a soft spot in Excel allows attackers to put together a malicious document that, when opened, can create havoc on a system. This particular vulnerability, it seems, has the potential to allow remote code to be executed on a computer. Translation: This means users are at risk for having their data exposed.

In its advisory, Microsoft appears to be downplaying the potential risks, saying only that targeted attacks have been seen. The report says the company is investigating "new public reports" of vulnerabilities in Excel 2003 Service Pack 2, Excel Viewer 2003, Excel 2002, Excel 2000 and Excel 2004 for Mac. The investigation so far shows that users of Excel 2007 or Excel 2008 for Mac, or those who have installed Excel 2003 Service Pack 3, aren't affected.

"Upon completion of this investigation, Microsoft will take the appropriate action to help protect our customers. This may include providing a security update through our monthly release process or providing an out-of-cycle security update, depending on customer needs," the advisory stated.

Company officials said that any customers who've been attacked can get security support here.

Mailbag: Microsoft Antitrust, Supercomputers, More
Readers share their thoughts on the European Commission's renewed antitrust probe against Microsoft:

In your Europe vs. Microsoft item yesterday, you wrote, "No rest for the weary." If I remember correctly, the source of that proverb (Isaiah 48:22) says, "No rest for the wicked" -- which, if we're talking about the European Commission, seems to me even more fitting.
-Bill

I guess if you can't beat them, sue them. If nothing else, it slows Microsoft down.
-George

Opera's suit is kind of stupid. If Windows didn't contain anything to access the Web, how would you download Opera? Should Opera be bundled with Windows? No, not without some cash sliding Microsoft's way for the shelf space. Are they hoping this no-legs-to-stand-on suit will terrify MS based on past fines? Hope not.

It seems that no matter the company or country (top-level domain servers), someone wants a piece of someone else's pie. Go bake your own, market it and then sell it as a competitor. Lead, follow or get out of the way. "Whining for a handout" is not listed.
-Jim

Reading about this new round of antitrust investigations made me think of a song by Rush. It's called "The Trees." Here are some of the lyrics:

There is unrest in the forest,
There is trouble with the trees,
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas.

The trouble with the maples,
(And they're quite convinced they're right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light.
But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made.
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade.

[The rest of the lyrics can be found here.]
-Kris

News of Hector, the U.K.'s fastest supercomputer, had these readers writing in:

Your article about the Scottish supercomputer was interesting but I think you give it too much credit. "Hector LIVES at the University of Edinburgh's Advanced Computer Facility"? I think "lives" may be a little too strong.
-George

Sure, we will need a supercomputer. Have you tried to run Vista?
-Dave

Lafe suggested yesterday that because of IBM's strong international sales, the execs who first decided to expand IBM's business beyond U.S. borders should get bigger offices. But Mike doesn't think they'd have much use for them:

Where, in the sky? They're dead by now, surely.

IBM has expanded beyond the U.S. borders from the year dot. I started in this business in 1968 and by 1970 I was working for a British computer seller in Hungary. IBM had been in that country so long by then that unlike all the rest of their competitors, they had an OFFICIAL office there. In the summer of 1968, I worked in a summer job at IBM Finland which dominated that market. Even in the U.K., despite serious local competition at the time, IBM had 45 percent of the market (and so on throughout Europe).
-Mike

Share your thoughts with us! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to escannell@redmondmag.com.

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