Salesforce.com announced the availability of Sites today, a service that allows businesses to host their websites using the software as a service (SaaS) company’s massive datacenters. Sites will also allow companies to take Salesforce.com applications, as well as apps produced by third-party vendors on the company’s Force.com platform, and make them available to customers on their publicly-facing websites.
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“All aspects of the platform are open to you, so you can build apps on top of the platform,” Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com’s CEO, told the attendees at Dreamforce, the company’s main user and developer conference. “You don’t have to create your own infrastructure. Those days are over.”
Businesses who sign up for the service will have many enterprise application choices. Since it launched, the Force.com platform has harbored nearly 85,000 customers. Some build upon core enterprise apps such as Salesforce.com’s CRM system, while others deal with other business departments, such as HR, IT and marketing.
The announcement comes at a time when SaaS, a model of software delivery where vendors like Salesforce.com host data while employees at companies access the application through a Web-browser, is being looked upon more closely by more businesses due to the recession.
SaaS works on a pay-as-go model (generally per user per month), a departure from multi-year, multi-million dollar software contracts of the past where companies generally had to buy servers and host the data themselves.
While Salesforce.com has taken a beating on Wall Street, watching its stock price fall 18 percent in a 24 hour period back in August , the company has done $1 billion in revenue this year.
Salesforce.com has generally been focused on internally facing applications. With the announcement of Sites, they are expanding their presence in a market crowded with service providers big and small. Benioff, in his remarks, seemed to acknowledge this fact.
“It’s time for you to think of us in a different way,” he says. “We’re going to do it with Force.com Sites. Now you can run your whole web in our cloud. You can run all your web applications on force.com. Not just your CRM.”
The service, set to hit in 2009, will vary its pricing model based on the amount of page views a website experiences. Developers can get a preview of it at force.com.
One example the company showed off was how the New Jersey Transit has used the service. The transit uses an alert system to track delays and incidents that occur on its lines. Now, when transit workers internally post an alert to the system, provided it goes through the proper workflow and approval, the alert gets posted to the company’s website for riders to see.
Salesforce will use page views as a measure to monetize the service. A Group Edition Salesforce subscription includes up to 50,000 monthly page views for a Force.com Site. An Unlimited Edition subscription comes with 1 million monthly views.
If more page views are required, the services charges $1,000 per month for up to 1 million more monthly views, or $3,000 a month for up to 5 million additional views per month.
“This is a whole new way to think about your website,” Benioff says, making his pitch to the nearly 10,000 conference attendees, to a packed standing room only keynote hall. “It’s all point and click. All your web apps can run on Force.com sites.”