Without apps the planet is lifeless and the enterprise might as well be dead. Ok, maybe that’s overstating it a bit.

But think about it — try getting through the day, productively, without accessing a mobile or cloud app.

CIO’s and even CEO’s get this. They’re under growing pressure to deliver apps that connect with customers, employees, business partners and even products across every device, including wearables.

And for that you need many, many developers (skills in HTML5, iOS, Android, Mobile App and Platforms-as-a-Service are trending on employment sites).

Developers also need a hassle-free way and place to build apps, and IT needs options to securely deploy and maintain them.

That’s what Salesforce’s new App Cloud is all about.

It’s the evolution of Salesforce1 and brings together established platform services including Force, Heroku Enterprise and Lightning with new shared identity, data and network services to empower CIOs to deliver connected apps for any business need.

Beyond Rebranding

Is it just a rebranding of Salesforce1 Platform? In a sense, yes, according to Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research.

“It ends the source of substantial confusion in the ecosystem and as well as on the messaging side,” he said. 

But Mueller also indicated that there’s been some heavy lifting going on, specifically at the identity, data and networking level.

It’s worth noting, too, that Salesforce App Cloud’s platform services include Trailhead, a new interactive learning environment for Salesforce app creators, and the AppExchange, which Salesforce describes as the largest enterprise app marketplace in the world.

Salesforce hopes to provide an inclusive, unified platform for delivering connected apps fast. The tools involved to help make that happen include:

Heroku, which lives on AWS. It features Private Spaces, which allows businesses to run apps in a dedicated Heroku private space with direct access to Salesforce's infrastructure and customers’ on­-premises data from legacy systems; and Heroku Regions, which provides companies with an ability to choose based on accessibility, compliance or other requirements. In addition, with Identity, Heroku Enterprise is connected to Force.com with bi­directional data sync, single sign­on and robust role­based access controls.

Salesforce Lightning, a highly customizable meta data driven platform designed to make it easy for anyone to build connected app experiences.

Trailhead, a new interactive learning environment intended to help everyone from developers and business admins to end-users, marketers and data analysts leverage Salesforce’s tools to test their knowledge while earning points and badges to celebrate their achievements. It’s free to use. Salesforce claims more than 40,000 app creators have already participated in Trailhead training and have earned more than 150,000 badges during its beta release.

Salesforce boasts its App Cloud, which runs a reported 3.7 transactions every business day, includes an ecosystem of 2.3 million developers, who have collectively built 5.5 million apps. It also includes the AppExchange, which features more than 2,700 ISV apps and 40 Lightning Components.

Mueller champions Salesforce for sharing the aforementioned details. “It’s a good practice and a good example for the industry,” he said. “Customers and ecosystems appreciate the clarity.”

Cross-Cloud Plays

What’s interesting in this App Cloud announcement is that these seem to be cross-cloud plays. The App Cloud platform exists on both Salesforce and Heroku, which runs on Amazon, Mueller said.

“The most remarkable part of the Apps Cloud announcement is that Salesforce is effectively announcing a cross cloud platform PaaS,” Mueller wrote in the draft of a blog post he plans to publish later today. 

“The vendor (Salesforce) is usually coy at admitting that Heroku runs on top of Amazon AWS, and the rest of Salesforce runs in Salesforce data centers. Now customers and partners can more easily build applications across both platforms, effectively creating the first multi-cloud PaaS.

"While other PaaS products allow deployment of finished applications across other clouds, an important capability, the Salesforce App Cloud brings two platforms together. And it gives customers — given that they build on the Heroku side of the offering, a wide variety of physical deployment options that matter today both from a data sovereignty and performance perspective.”

If delivered as promised, the Salesforce App Cloud should give IT something to smile about and a way to look good.

This doesn’t mean it's flawless, but we expect a flurry of announcements coming out of Dreamforce next week, so we hesitate to speak too soon.

Title image by Caleb George.