Salesforce.com's database uses a different architecture than most application vendors, said analyst Curt Monash of Monash Research.
"It doesn't break things up into thousands of tables. It's more focused on programming straight to the business object," he said. "You avoid some of the advantages and some of the hassles of typical relational programming."
Given that network latency is one of the key determiners of performance, Database.com is probably not suitable for the highest-end transaction processing needs, he said.
"On the other hand, when you're building applications where any given user does a few transactions per hour, then it probably doesn't matter," Monash added. "This is not an architecture for extreme transaction volumes, but most applications don't have extreme volumes."
It is not clear how far into next year Database.com will become generally available. Salesforce.com is still working on the details of provisioning individual databases, for one, said Stahl. In addition, as with other products, it will conduct a private beta period first, he said.
Partners are already lining up to support the launch. Progress Software and Informatica, to name two, are pushing products for helping customers get data into Database.com.
The new service could prove to be a solid revenue generator for Salesforce.com, said 451 Group analyst China Martens in an email. "It does seem to open up Salesforce.com's world more to being a multiple apps player, but also seems to continue that uneasy divide of it being both a CRM [customer relationship management] provider and an infrastructure player."
It's not clear how this move will be received by customers, who may prefer to see Salesforce.com "pay renewed attention to its core CRM offering," Martens added.
For his part, Stahl said customers who are aware of Database.com are "chomping at the bit" to try it.
Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff is expected to discuss the announcement, as well as other product news, during a keynote address later Tuesday.
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com.