As part of the release of Force.com Sites , Salesforce has made available a Free 100-user Force.com Platform account . This makes it very easy for people to construct web-based database apps without infrastructure worries. It’s so simple, that even a Business Analyst can do it!
This is similar to the standard Free Developer Edition account, which offers a 2-user, fully-featured Salesforce.com CRM/SFA account, which is great for developers and evaluators.
The Force.com offering, however, is even more amazing. It’s a fantastic Google-like move, aimed at gathering momentum for their platform offering. The Force.com multi-tenant architecture means that giving the free accounts won’t consume many additional resources, aside from storage and some processing when people are online. But it’s a great way to attract people away from traditional alternatives like in-house database apps built on Microsoft Access or SQL Server.
The Force.com platform includes a database, highly configurable UI, workflow, Java-like customisation language that includes Triggers and web services, field-level security, API, the new publicly-accessible Sites offering and heaps more. It’s everything you need to make web-based custom apps, without the Developer!
I’m already thinking of some apps that I could deploy to the free Force.com platform offering — small systems involving just a few people, that would otherwise require me to get a developer to write a Grails-based app, or reuse some of our existing systems to do things a bit outside their intended design.
Interestingly, it means I’ll be creating a free Force.com org separate from my company’s existing Enterprise license because I don’t want to use my full-priced Enterprise CRM licenses for users who just need access to a simple database app. It would be much better if Salesforce gave me 100 free Platform licenses to add to my existing Enterprise org — less logins, more centralised data. Alas, at $50/user/month (or the current special of $20/user/month if I buy a license for every employee) is too expensive to justify the simple apps. So, free version it is for me!
The Terms & Conditions attached to the Free Force.com account are:
- 100 Users
- 10 Custom Objects per user
- 10MB storage per user (so 1GB in total)
- Various restrictions are Sites and processing time
However, reading the fine print also reveals that Salesforce do not actually enforce these limits. Rather, it’s up to the customer to ensure, for example, that a particular user profile can only access a maximum of 10 custom objects. They balance this with the right to audit and the requirement to purchase full-version licenses if the limits are violated.
Edit: Oops. I originally said $50/user/year. It’s actually $50/user/month. (Thanks Chun!)
The Bottom Line
- The Force.com Platform is great for creating custom web-based apps
- The free Force.com Platform offer is very attractive for small-scale apps
- This will help publicise Force.com as a viable development platform