History repeats itself
Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigra? They're the same face! Doesn't anybody notice this? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!Salesforce.com recently announced the launch of Apex, and judging by the early response from the industry, this Apex thing is nothing short of the second coming:
Marc Benioff calls it “the most important announcement Salesforce has ever made.”
In fact, says Benioff: “Now that anything can be built on demand, no corner of enterprise software is safe.” Muah ha ha ha! (added for effect)
Mark Gorenberg at Hummer Winblad called it “the biggest thing since the stored procedure.”
Nick Carr says “what Salesforce is doing is certainly part of a big tsunami in business computing”
Dan Farber says it represents a “shift in the software landscape.”
Phil Wainewright says “The conventional licensed software market hasn't seen anything like this.”
Forget waiting in line to pre-order a Playstation 3, I’m going to run down to the Moscone Center with cash in hand to get myself some of this Apex! Wait, what exactly am I supposed to be buying?
A programming language.
Based on an 8 year old technology (Java & SQL).
That’s not in beta yet.
Well, maybe that’s still big news. Just to be sure, I jumped into my way back machine to see if our industry has every seen anything like it before:
Oracle has PL/SQL
PeopleSoft has PeopleTools
Siebel has Siebel VB
SAP has ABAP
Now Salesforce has Apex… but somehow this is the biggest thing since client-server.
I whipped up a quick comparison of Apex to a few of today's many application specific languages. I'm not an engineer by trade so any and all corrections are appreciated:
And all of these languages are procedural. None of them are portable to other application platforms.
Mind you I have nothing against Apex, but hearing leaders who average 25 years in the industry promptly ignore their own 25 years of experience leaves me scratching my head.
To Apex itself, credit where credit is due:
Apex is arguably cooler than its predecessors. Things that are shiny and new always are. Of course things that are shiny and new also have no developer community, install base or ecosystem, but who am I to bring facts into the discussion (they call it Dreamforce for a reason I suppose)?
The runtime for Apex purportedly does some nifty stuff to enable developers to write customizations, run code in a multi-tenant architecture, all while preserving upgradeability. This is not easy to do. Over the course of the next year, we’ll learn more about how confining Parker Harris made his sandbox to achieve this and how easy it is to build different types of castles.
Apex makes Salesforce applications much more customizable than before and this will increase their viability in more demanding environments. It will also increase their cost and complexity. Hate to be the guy who says "I told you so," but 6 months ago I wrote how the closer SaaS got to meeting the needs to the large enterprise, the less distinct it would become from on premise.
This was a necessary step for Salesforce to take and I suspect it will make them more attractive in the large enterprise. I seriously doubt however that Marc will get many takers for those $20,000 cubicles. The reason why there are very few blockbuster startups built on ABAP or Siebel VB or PeopleCode is the same reason why you won’t find many on Apex.