Will PC’s (as we once knew them) die out now that the cloud computing model of service-based software application delivery and virtualised data storage and management has taken hold?
Are we one step away from referring to computers not as computers, but as “cloud monitors”, where the only ‘Windows’ on show is a window to the software available from our chosen hosting provider?
We have (largely) already reached a point when we no longer install software off-the-shelf and out-of-the-box onto our machines, as online downloads have become the norm.
This “online download trend” although perfectly acceptable at the PC (or Mac etc.) level is further fuelled by the fact that users are estimated to have somewhere around four to five times the number of “self-installed” applications on their mobile devices (smartphones and tablets in this case) than they do on their desktop machines.
The End of Software — as we know it
Does this all play out well with Salesforce.com’s CEO Marc Benioff who defined the mission for his company as a quest to bring about — The End of Software, as we know it?
The Force.com platform itself rests and revolves around a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application suite, although the company has used the last decade and a half to expand its reach and scope into what appears to be labelled as “social enterprise” applications.
So how will Salesforce.com bring about the end of software?
The company’s strategy allows the opening up its infrastructure so that “everyone” can use it for custom application development, “With salesforce.com’s Force.com cloud platform, you can build any business application and run it on our servers,” says the company.
But is the software application world really “beating a path” to the Force.com platform as Benioff claims?
Anyone who has attended a JavaOne/Oracle Develop event with CEO Larry “did I tell you I won the America’s Cup” Ellison will tell you that Benioff gets a few pot shots taken at him at every keynote i.e. not “everyone” is completely sold on the whole “develop for the cloud only via Force.com” message yet… but some of the momentum may indeed be gathering.
Benioff contends that “traditional” software application development has “too many moving parts” to buy, install, configure and maintain — and that, moreover, the “entire infrastructure” requires constant maintenance to keep it working smoothly.
These anti-Agility messages will clearly not win fans with the open source community who may indeed take umbrage at Salesforce.com’s dismissal of other systems as a, “Welter of unintegrated, homegrown systems on spreadsheets, personal databases, or other unsupported platforms.”
But will developers start to view cloud platforms such as Force.com as a new route to custom (they’re American – they mean “bespoke”) application development on the cloud?
There is certainly appeal for being able to get all your business logic with workflow rules plus approval processes from one central hub. One might even argue that robustness for both availability and security could be improved via this route.
Access to Force.com is through a web browser so development and deployment both take place in the cloud. “The platform itself provides everything you need for robust enterprise application development through a combination of clicks, components, and code,” says the company.
So where do we go from here?
Changes are afoot, but don’t throw away your PC or Apple Mac just yet please.