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Is developerforce.com a "pure" development platform?

We are looking to build an internal CRM system and are currently examining tools available in two main categories:

A - "Pure" development platform, for example Access + SQL. Application design (including the data model) and implementation are completely under the developer's control.

B - "You can customize our data model and (seemingly) retain control, but in the end, you are tied to ours". Under this platform, I'm assuming that once you attempt to deploy, you end up paying the license fees as outlined under one of the standard editions (e.g. salesforce.com) in which case it isn't truly free for life as the Developer Edition of salesforce.com claims to be.

I am not certain where developerforce.com falls. After creating a test project with several tables and playing a bit with the Developer Schema, I was feeling confident it fell under category A. Then I had a meeting with my boss who said he suspects it's actually B.

I don't want to go into the details of the application itself and its purpose, as I'm not looking for platform advice. I just want to clarify what we'd be "signing up for" if we decided to undertake the project with developerforce.com.

Cathy Munsen
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While I think your comparison of (Access + SQL) -v- Developerforce is somewhat unfair, I would place developerforce.com into category B.

A more 'level playing field' comparison in my mind would be Azure -v- Database.com; both are cloud based and both closer to your "pure" development platform example.

But you open with: "build an internal CRM system"

if it's internal (only) then why look at cloud?
perhaps you meant "custom" to meet internal requirements

if it's CRM, then leveraging developerforce.com might make sense.
the point of the force.com platform is that you have prebuilt CRM functionality that you may configure to specific needs, and the claimed advantage from that is speed (i.e. get to the end quicker).

I'd suggest you need to decide if you need/want cloud based services in the long term first. If this answer is yes, then choose the "Platform as a Service" (PaaS). The point is that your organization will be paying for the cloud services for as long as they use the solution as operating expense.

If the answer to cloud is no, then there will be a different set of platform choices open to you, and the overall cost model will differ as well (e.g. capital for infrastructure, staffing and so on).
Definitely B

You will be tied to the application servers and eco system of the vendor.
This is not necessarily a bad thing - just something to be aware of.
An application developed on the force.com platform cannot be ported to run elsewhere.
CathyMunsenAuthor Commented:
Thanks to both of you for timely and clear responses. Yes, I did mean "custom" to internal requirements for a solution that will require external access (e.g. for work@home employees). My head is admittedly swimming with the possibilities, though you've both given me solid feedback to consider.

Thanks for the grading, good luck with the project. Cheers, Paul
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