Salesforce.com and several reports suggest that its acquisition of Heroku, a Ruby cloud platform provider, just delivered a large and growing developer audience to Salesforce.com's door. But did it?
Salesforce.com as a developer destination
Salesforce.com's recent acquisition of Heroku, along with Salesforce.com's newly introduced Database.com offering is raising the prospects of Salesforce.com as a major platform-as-a-service (PaaS) provider for developers. At least that's what Salesforce.com would like you to think. Here's how Salesforce.com's CEO, Marc Benioff, described the motivation behind the acquisition:
Ruby is the language of Cloud 2 [applications for real-time mobile and social platforms]. Developers love Ruby. It's a huge advancement. It offers rapid development, productive programming, mobile and social apps, and massive scale. We could move the whole industry to Ruby on Rails.
Analyst James Governor of RedMonk, a firm that is very much in tune with developer trends, wrote positively about the acquisition. Governor believes that Heroku, because of its Ruby heritage, will in fact bring developers to Salesforce.com who may have previously looked elsewhere. Governor writes:
Salesforce avoids IT to sell to the business, while Heroku avoids IT to sell to developers. The two firms definitely have something in common. While Salesforce has done an outstanding job selling to line-of-business people, its direct outreach to developers through its Force.com PaaS platform and "Java-like" Apex language has been disappointing so far. The big difference then: Apex is "Java-like." Heroku is Ruby.
Even Engine Yard, a competitor of Heroku, agrees that Ruby is a developer favorite, but it says developers won't want to be tied to Salesforce.com. Tom Mornini, Engine Yard's CTO and co-founder, explains:
No respectable developer wants to be on Salesforce.com. This could drive even more developers [to Engine Yard's platform] ... Ruby is the language for the cloud. If you are building apps, and you are building on the cloud, you have to build with Ruby.
How real is Ruby's rise?
For Heroku to deliver Salesforce.com a large and growing number of developers, Ruby's use should be increasing. But according to the Tiobe index of the top 50 programming languages, Ruby's usage declined in 2010 and has been, at best, relatively flat since 2007. The dark purple line at the bottom of the chart below represents Ruby usage.