Update: Salesforce links Force.com to Google App Engine

The integration of the cloud platforms is aimed at fostering innovation and the invention of new Web applications

Salesforce.com is set to announce Monday that it is connecting its Force.com development platform with Google's App Engine.

The news, which Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is expected to discuss during a company event in New York, follows Salesforce's recent announcement of a similar arrangement with Amazon Web Services' Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3).

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Google's App Engine, which is still in preview mode, is aimed at developers who want to quickly and easily build scalable Web applications, while AWS is positioned as a more generalized, flexible infrastructure platform for serving all types of programs.

Meanwhile, Force.com provides a database, Java-like programming language, integration and workflow capabilities, and user-interface design tools for creating business applications that run on Salesforce's cloud infrastructure.

The results from this hookup remain to be seen, said Adam Gross, vice president of developer marketing at Salesforce.

"Obviously, it's up to the imagination of developers what they create," Gross said.

In a statement, Google said the integration "will foster the creation of new Web applications and further demonstrate the power of the Web as a platform."

One industry observer is expecting big things to happen over time as cloud platforms merge in this manner.

"We're really talking about the invention of apps that don't exist right now, that will exist at the intersection of CRM or more broadly, business applications and front-office applications," said Denis Pombriant, managing principal of Beagle Research in Stoughton, Mass. "Or front-office applications and social-networking applications. This opens up a door, or maybe a couple of doors, to really new innovation."

Monday's announcement is the latest stage in Salesforce and Google's relationship -- which has also resulted in an integration between Salesforce and Google Apps -- and could prompt another round of speculation that the search engine giant will eventually buy Salesforce.

But Pombriant hopes such a deal doesn't materialize.

"I think it's highly important that the two companies remain separate, and that they continue pursuing their own unique paths toward platform integration," he said. "I don't think you can have a cloud computing era happen if all the clouds are owned by the same company."

Also Monday, Salesforce said 12 partners with a total of 19 applications are participating in a pilot program for its Force.com Checkout e-commerce engine.

All 19 programs were built with Force.com, as opposed to ones developed with other tools and integrated with Salesforce. The company's decision to limit pilot program access to such "native" applications drew complaints earlier this year from at least one partner.

Right now, only U.S. customers can buy partner-built applications through Force.com Checkout, while Salesforce-developed applications can be purchased by customers worldwide with the service.

Force.com Checkout builds upon Salesforce's existing AppExchange marketplace. Partners won't be charged any fees until 2010.

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