“The number of technologies that a given organization needs to be proficient with is not only increasing, it’s accelerating.” 

So says Adam Gross, the COO of Heroku, one of the original Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS) for enterprise applications — a firm owned by Salesforce that today may have increased that number by one.

“If you’re in charge of IT or appdev [application development] for a startup or an enterprise,” Gross explained in an interview with CMSWire, “you have to be great at container virtualization and deployment. You have to be great at CI/CD; you have to be great at application performance management, monitoring, and logging. You have to be great at security and trust management.

“Next week, you’re going to have to be great at big data stores like Kafka and Cassandra. Your requirements are accelerating. If you do not adopt a PaaS perspective — that you need to consume as much of this as possible as-a-service — you are not going to be able to keep up.”

The Patchwork Umbrella

Gross’ comments come in the wake of this morning’s release into general availability of Salesforce’s Heroku Enterprise edition, announced last September at Dreamforce as part of its revised Salesforce App Cloud.

“Enterprise Edition” has a strangely familiar ring to it, especially for a company that tries its best not to mirror Microsoft.

It’s a bold — and risky — effort on the part of one of the pioneering PaaS platforms, to reacquaint itself with enterprises by marketing an “Enterprise” edition of something that was supposed to be for enterprises to begin with. Sound familiar?

Remaking oneself is something Salesforce does with aplomb. CEO Marc Benioff actually advocates the act of remaking oneself as critical to a company’s survival in the modern age.

But the Salesforce App Cloud, as it’s called now, is looking something more like a bundle than a platform, especially as the company says it “brings Force.com and Heroku closer together,” and as it renames Salesforce1 yet again.

Heroku is the component under the current Salesforce App Cloud umbrella that enables developers to build scalable Web services using modern languages. Ruby was first, but now there’s Java and its stateless descendant Scala, and also PHP, Python, Node.js, Go and Clojure.

The mobile application component under this umbrella is the current incarnation of Force.com. One builds a Force.com application now using a visual development studio called Lightning, as opposed to a textual language.

The Salesforce1 brand, which was the former incarnation of the broader platform umbrella, is now being used to shelter a mobile app development toolkit with which organizations can quickly build and distribute branded mobile apps.

And now there’s a product evangelist who says Salesforce’s focus is on the application, the application, the application.

“Really, what makes App Cloud unique is that it has that perspective of focusing on the app,” said Heroku COO Gross. “What is the app you’re trying to build? Here is the set of technologies that are the best fit, that require the least imagination and rocket science to get between point A and point B.

“Behind the scenes, we connect it all so that all those apps automatically work together. So from a strategic investment point of view, you don’t have to worry about building an app that’s an island.”

It’s certainly not an unworkable strategy. But it’s remarkable to see Benioff’s company embarking along the very road he vowed to steer clear of.

The Enterprise Version

Back in May 2012, Heroku unveiled a new process model for applications, based on a platform called Cedar. It was a move, the head of Heroku told me at the time, to push Heroku more toward enterprises. And even then, that sounded a little redundant.

Tuesday, Heroku takes a similar step, releasing into general availability a new process model called Dogwood (its fourth, as indicated by the initial “D”). Dogwood represents Heroku’s effort to cordon off the execution space for applications, creating so-called Private Spaces whose resources are sealed off from the other tenants in Salesforce’s cloud.

“Private Spaces is an entirely new runtime architecture,” said Gross. “In fact, it represents the most dramatic kind of new architecture since it went multi-language in 2011.”

Although a discussion of the implementation of the Private Spaces architecture would probably drive all of CMSWire’s readers away, the basic concept is simple enough to be explained in an analogy.

Most PaaS platforms are colossal public spaces in which individual units of work, belonging to certain customers, cohabit the system with units of work belonging to all the other customers simultaneously. From the first iteration of Heroku, its units of work were called dynos.

Scheduling dynos through a single PaaS platform can be likened to commuters riding a public subway system, all being funneled through various turnstiles. While you can say there’s a central scheduling system at work here, that schedule is more for the train than the commuter.

Likewise, dynos haven’t really followed a prescribed path, as much as they’ve had a plan in mind and tried as best they could to meet that plan.

Learning Opportunities

Along comes Heroku Enterprise and the Dogwood model. Here, entire spaces have been chartered to carry dynos exclusively — a bit like chartering a bus.

“Class,” as it applies to commuters in this system, no longer matters when we move to Dogwood. That is to say, there don’t have to be high-priority dynos and lower-class, “coach” passengers.

So in Private Spaces, all dynos are bumped up to first-class, or what Heroku calls “performance grade.”

“You can scale your dynos in your Dogwood applications as freely as you want,” Heroku’s Adam Gross told us. “The difference is that, in the Cedar model, everyone shares the routing mesh, which itself is comprised of a universe of machines, but that’s a common service.

“In Dogwood, these are privately provisioned, and managed just for you, on a per-space basis. The rest of the Heroku concepts are the same.”

By that, Gross means that developers will build applications and deploy them to their organizations’ Heroku spaces the same way they have before. The Private Spaces provisioning takes place in the background, and hopefully the effects are recognizable in the form of higher performance.

There is one important procedural difference to note: In order to maintain stricter security over the allocation of Public Spaces, Heroku is tying together its identity federation services with Salesforce’s own Enterprise Edition.

This way, Heroku enables single-sign-on (SSO) through Salesforce — or rather, Salesforce enables SSO to Heroku by way of its own main portal. Yet another way Salesforce is working to more closely tie together its various brands.

Familiar Ground

Salesforce’s story can’t help but strike up memories of an old, familiar rhythm, of a company that would collect components together that did basically the same thing in slightly different ways, under a single umbrella, rename them, and then rename them again — a certain company that would steer its customers through certain of its portals just to make sure they get used by someone.

What is Salesforce doing to escape the SharePoint trap?

“If you have two technologies that do the same thing and that are for the same person,” answered Salesforce’s Gross, “that’s very tricky. If you have technologies and platforms that are use-case- and person-specific, they can easily co-exist and complement each other.”

Gross painted a picture of the administrator of Salesforce tools within an organization as a “citizen developer,” who may not understand the first thing about development, but who may become productive by way of Force.com and Lightning.

“For Heroku, we’re appealing to a more traditional, more modern open source developer. The communities are different; the capabilities are different; and the apps that they create are different.

“And as long as we keep those swim lanes clear,” the COO went on, “we’ll be able to do something that the company hasn’t done before, which is ultimately go to the top of the organization — go to the CEO and say, ‘We can be your technology partner that can drive all your digital transformation. You don’t have to go put together a stack. You don’t have to find six different vendors who are going to be able to address all these different use cases.’

“We think we can be a strategic partner,” concluded Gross, “that drives their appdev across all of these fronts, and be unique in that way.”

Who was it who said no one ever got fired for buying Salesforce? It’s remarkable, when history does come around to repeating itself, just who ends up doing the repeating.

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Title image inside Charing Cross Station in London, UK by Scott Fulton