There are essentially two competing visions of how cloud computing in the enterprise will evolve. The first is driven by the software-as-a-service (SaaS) application model with which most organizations are familiar. The second is an emerging world of application programming interfaces (APIs) in the cloud through which organizations will transparently access data from multiple sources.
The SaaS-centric view of the cloud assumes that organizations will agree on standard commercial applications, such as Salesforce.com, through which they will access data stored in any number of other applications. The other view of the cloud is that enterprise IT organizations will create their own customer user interface through which they will access any number of “headless” application services in the cloud.
While a lot of vendors appear to be leaning one direction or another, most of them are betting on both scenarios. In the case of Salesforce.com, the company has a vested interest in CRM becoming the dominant application in the cloud. At the same time, however, Salesforce.com has made massive investments in cloud services, such as Force.com and Heroku, which are all being woven together via a common API architecture.
According to Clarence So, executive vice president for mobile strategy at Salesforce.com, the basic plan is to put Salesforce.com in a position to become the cloud workflow engine of choice regardless of what application paradigm ultimately dominates.
Naturally, a big part of that effort is the investments Salesforce.com is making in mobile computing. As mobile devices become the dominant way users access cloud applications, Salesforce.com wants to be the vehicle through which cloud silos can be easily integrated via a common workflow engine.
Of course, Salesforce.com isn’t the only vendor angling to control workflow in the age of the cloud, but it may be the furthest ahead in terms of understanding how to go about it.