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Mercantile Mashups

Making mashups for a living is a web developers dream - it may be closer than you think.

It was a strange feeling, the speaker was showing the latest in mashups between their software with Google and Skype. I was viewing a Web app, it was Web 2.0 and it had a wonderful response time but the presenter was wearing a suit and the crowd was more interested in the business opportunities than the technical edge.

Welcome to a Salesforce.com presentation given in Sydney today by Jim Steele, President, sales and distribution, Salesforce.com.

Before the idea of a boring corporate CRM solution enters our minds, mull upon this if you will. Wouldn't it be cool if you could have a Google Map with your leads and customers as an overlay or be able to conduct a Skype conference of like-minded people rather than repetitively phone them? Of course it is, not only does it have the Web 2.0 trimmings and hype around it, it can actually serve a useful purpose. After all, most developers are not that lucky to get paid to produce technology previews, developers need to justify time with results. It's great to see an uptake of the kind of ideas that excite developers into business because if you can do cool stuff at work rather than grinding out code then it can make all the difference between a job and a great job.

At the core of the Salesforce.com was the software as a service (SaaS) model. Having had experience using Java Web Start to roll out applications previously, I did once try to redo the app as a Web service. It worked as a prototype but was incredibly clunky - in those days Javascript was the devil and having things change on the page without a refresh was nigh on heresy. If I could do it again, it would definitely be a Web service rather than client/server style app. I guess that sort of idea is the impetus behind the Salesforce claim that SaaS will displace the client/server style apps we have now.

When you can integrate any service with an open API into an existing framework rather than switching between the applications and cutting and pasting like mad, it's an idea that's hard to deny.

The other benefit of SaaS that appealed to me was having an external central team responsible for maintenance. I think being external is the key too; as an external entity you can waive a contract with 99.9% uptime at them if things fall apart, whereas an internal team is likely to produce less and be more disruptive to overall productivity. An added benefit is that it allows teams to free up developers to be creative rather than be stuck in the maintenance rut.

Overall it is an appealing idea to ponder, but are we in a beginning of a revolution? I would say its more evolution, as many have had these type of ideas for a while - as always though, timing is everything.

About Chris Duckett

Some would say that it is a long way from software engineering to journalism, others would correctly argue that it is a mere 10 metres according to the floor plan.During his first five years with CBS Interactive, Chris started his journalistic advent...

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