The VMForce announcement leaves us all with one big question — ok, many questions like when and how much. But the question I am most interested in at the moment is whether or not this is a single or multi-tenant thing and what it means for the industry and Salesforce’s multi-tenant chops and possibly, how this all plays in the discussion of public and private clouds.
Let me start by digressing. My understanding of VMForce is that it offers a way to move Java code to the cloud while enabling it to access data from Salesforce Cloud applications. This happens automagically when a developer selects VMForce as the server for an application. VMForce.com provides a virtual Java server and voila the application is available to users of the cloud instance along with other Force.com applications with proper security.
That all looks good but just because the Java code is running on the VMForce platform it does not mean the Java code is suddenly multi-tenant. Does it matter? Hmmm. The VMForce virtual server is a multi-tenant device conjured up from multi-tenant resources, but the Java code is separate so it’s operating as a single tenant instance.
Someone send me mail if this is not the way it works.
The net effect to the customer is a familiar application running native in Salesforce and able to access all of the user’s data and other applications so the difference is nugatory to the user.
How is this different from running the Java application on a hosted server in the sky? Well, first off, the server in the sky runs like the server in the data center which is to say it is walled off from the rest of the world and integration with a cloud (or any other application) requires a more tedious and conventional integration process (read time and money here). So you get much simpler and less costly integration and the ability to run concurrently in one cloud environment.
Is this a private cloud? I guess so but only to the extent that by providing an instance of Force.com to any user, that user has a “private” cloud that just happens to be integrated to the rest of the world.
Is this a departure for Salesforce? That’s debatable but I lean towards saying yes here so I am calling it smulti-tenant. I’m not very concerned about doctrinal purity here. The facts as I see them are that this approach merges legacy applications into the future of cloud computing. The alternative, moving your data center to the sky or using infrastructure as a service, does nothing to move legacy code into the future. It just changes the location of the private data center.
As an engineering proposition this is elegant, like making the strongest and lightest airframe or bridge. If Cole Porter were a Java programmer I am sure he’d say ‘swonderful, ‘smarvelous.