Interesting news that SuccessFactors has selected VMware’s PaaS, CloudFoundry as its platform to allow creation and extension of customer applications around its core data. This is an interesting move particularly given that it follows the move of Workday, Infor and Concur to use the force.com PaaS as the platform of choice to enable similar functionality for its users.
These two takes on PaaS, force.com and CloudFoundry, are starkly different. I’ve posted previously detailing the differences between what I term application PaaS (aPaaS) platforms, ones which provide developers the ability to use high level declarative data and led by salesforce’s force.com. At the other end of the continuum lie infrastructure PaaS (iPaaS) offerings from Heroku, EngineYard and CloudFoundry – these platforms are focused more on automated the deployment and management of applications – more about removing the need for developers to think about infrastructure then they are focused on a particular type of common data.
It is for this reason that the SuccessFactors choice is somewhat unusual – most SaaS applications that partner with third party PaaS offerings are looking for a way to enable their customers to make advanced customizations on their application data, beyond what is possible with the application itself. It seems to me that the most appropriate place to do this is on a highly level platform such as force.com.
Contrast this with customers looking to ease the deployment and management of point applications, not heavily tied to application data. These types of use cases are perfectly suited to what CloudFoundry et al are doing.
Interestingly enough, the sample application that SuccessFactors has deployed to show the value that PaaS can bring is much more of a mash up than it is a customized application based on core data. The sample application “integrates SuccessFactors’ employee location data with Google Maps to calculate the impact of a facilities move” – a cool application indeed but hardly one that I’d classify as a “customization of application data”.
It’s not a bad integration per se, there is much value that SuccessFactors customers can make from using CloudFoundry, however if SuccessFactors is truly serious about using a PaaS to extend the customization options they already provide, CloudFoundry isn’t the optimum place to do that.