Archive for December, 2007

Amazon SimpleDB

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The Amazon.com’s Web Services team just announced SimpleDB. This is the newest of their many web services. This is essentially a database in the cloud and sounds very compelling.

What’s very cool about it is that Amazon is eliminating the need to manually manage a schema, allowing developers to manage it through their logic, while Amazon maintains the schema for you on the fly. For example, if you are creating a Customer record, you don’t need to define a City field that’s 50 characters in length and of type text. You just create your record with a bunch of attributes and it happens for you. Amazon will use the existing attribute if it’s used it before. If not, it will create those columns for you on your Customer object. It then indexes all of it for you for easy searching.

The pricing model is pay for what you use and, like their other web services, you have real-time visibility into what you are using and how much you owe them. All in all, it’s quite inexpensive for what you get.

I don’t see this service competing with Salesforce yet, but could compete with Salesforce (Force.com) as an infastructure platform for development in the future. Salesforce is a much more complete package with the UI components all there for you. Amazon’s web services are very raw (it’s just an API) and they rely on the business community to build tools that allow other businesses to develop on the platform. Initially, I see it competing with someone running a MySQL server on their domain. Amazon now has 3 very good web services for the developer: Amazon S3 for file/object storage, Amazon ECC for having virtual server(s), and now SimpleDB for storing more structured data. Using these, you could essentially eliminate a lot of what a web host does and use these services in the cloud and only pay for what you use. Very compelling in principle.

Where I feel that Salesforce could take a page out of Amazon’s book is the pay-for-what-you-use model. As a AppExchange application provider, I oftentimes need a back-end that is not the end customer’s Salesforce org. For example, with Arrowpointe Maps, I use the Salesforce org of the customer as the home for their business data and it’s nice I don’t need to store that anyplace else. However, I also have a MySQL database that houses a lot of the configuration information. I would love to use my Salesforce Org as this back-end. Everything is there for me to do it except that API rate limiting exists and I cannot risk having that limit hit if I am trying to service my customers. MySQL rocks for my purposes, but for future needs like this, I will be looking to Amazon SimpleDb as an option, but I would love to look to Salesforce for this.

Salesforce really needs a pricing scheme that supports an application using Salesforce as THE back-end database. This would be a model with unlimited (or pay-for-what-you-use) API access and a small number of web logins. The web logins would really be used to administer application data, build a schema, configure workflow, etc. 99% of activity would be via the API. It’s essentially the Platform Edition capabilities costed on an API basis rather than a user-basis and without any (or threats of) API rate limiting.

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Coming in Spring ’08

As I was perusing the Idea Exchange today, I came across this item with a comment from Salesforce saying that it was coming in Spring ’08 and was tagged as such.

A little URL hacking later and I came up with the feed to follow what’s coming in Spring ’08.

http://ideas.salesforce.com/xml/rss?tags_string=coming_in_spring_08

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Auto vCard 1.3

I made a small improvement to Auto vCard and the new version (1.3) is available on the AppExchange now. Prior to 1.3, the country field was not included in the URL and was not being accounted for in the vCard. This has now been changed and it is included in version 1.3.

It is recommended to upgrade, just to stay current. To do so:

  1. Go to the AppExchange listing
  2. Click Get It Now and follow the instructions to sign in and get it into your org
  3. You will be prompted to update the custom links from the original package. Follow the prompts to do so.
  4. That’s all. All that happened was that the custom links were overwritten on Leads and Contacts. You do not need to touch your Page Layouts.

Use of Auto vCard has really picked up usage. As of today, it is listed at #7 in the Top Installs list on the main AppExchange page. vCards created by month through November 2007 is below.

vcard_usage_nov2007.png

Lastly, if you are a user of Auto vCard and would like to contribute an honest review to the AppExchange, it would be great to get some feedback.

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Authorize logins from any IP address

Salesforce has mostly implemented their security changes. FYI, this is the help file page explaining to admins how to setup Network Access in the application and what happens when a user logs in.

If you have an org that you need access to without the burden of this restriction (e.g. an org you use to perform demos at various locations and/or from many different computers where you might not have email access), you can authorize all IPs by making 0.0.0.0 the start IP and 255.255.255.255 the end IP in a Network Access record.

Doing this will essentially put that org’s security back to what it was before Salesforce made their enhancements. I wouldn’t recommend making this change unless you actually need it, but it can come in handy even if for a short-term fix.

This is the approach Salesforce.com has taken for Test Drive orgs on AppExchange listings so that Test Drive users are not restricted access to a demo. All of my Test Drives had a record with this range pre-populated by Salesforce when they made their security changes.

Note: I do not recommend anyone do this for their corporate Salesforce.com org as this would negate all the good work Salesforce has done to button things up.

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Join the Spring ’08 Pre-Release Program

If you are an AppExchange partner, you can join the Spring ’08 pre-release program. The nice thing about how Salesforce is approaching it this time is that you can have one of your developer orgs cloned to a pre-release server. This allows you to really see how your own configuration will be affected by the new release.

The steps to do it are easy. Go to http://wiki.apexdevnet.com/index.php/Early_Access_Program to learn more.

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