Boldly Going Where No Middleware Has Gone Before
by Michael Rockford
Before the widespread adoption of cloud computing, enterprises incurred costs of hardware maintenance, software licensing & upgrades, and other costs of securing and managing enterprise IT infrastructure. Multi-tenancy, the sharing of one application across many tenants on a cloud, extends the benefits of cloud computing by replacing many small applications with one or a few large applications. But middleware to integrate applications has occasionally created more problems than it was originally deployed to solve.
Enterprises don't need middleware. Code can be written to solve any issue. But development is costly. Differences between application platforms, programming languages, communication protocols and messaging standards can be daunting. Middleware promises to close the gaps in lieu of writing new code. By providing a secure platform to call between two services, doing beta transformation and message translation, middleware seeks to be the quicker, less expensive remedy.
How can you insure middleware doesn't become a point of weakness? One option is to develop solutions on the Force.com and Heroku platforms. Force.com is a multi-tenant cloud platform hosted on Salesforce.com’s infrastructure and designed to simplify the development and deployment of cloud based enterprise apps and websites. Heroku is a synchronization service, conceptually similar to Dropbox or iCloud, that allows the same data to be seamlessly reflected in multiple platforms. Using Force.com and Heroku together in a single application truly takes the enterprise boldly forward where no middleware has gone before because it eliminates the need to translate or integrate between them.
By developing on Force.com and Heroku, developers can build apps to engage with customers, partners and employees in Java, Ruby, PHP, Node.js, Python, Clojure, Play for Scala, or Go. The engagement app can then seamlessly keep customer data synchronized in Salesforce as the database of record.
To thrive in the current competitive market environment, enterprises are using multiple channels to interact with customers. They're amplifying the voice of the customer (VoC) to capture the customer's preferences and aversions (with the goal to generate more revenue per customer).
Heroku can be the ideal middleware to facilitate interaction with the customer on any channel (SMS, voice server, mail, Twitter, Instagram). That works by the customer requesting service on the channel of their choice. Heroku processes the request by passing it to Salesforce for action feedback. Heroku then provides the return reply from Salesforce to the customer via the initial channel.
Does your enterprise use critical apps with Big Data sources you're trying to run reports on and use analytic tools? The combination of Heroku and Salesforce can be the hub for your Big Data strategy.
When your enterprise has implemented a Big Data strategy and built a data warehouse, you'll store hundreds of GB of customer data, logs, archived transactions, and social network updates in your data warehouse. After you've defined what data sources you want to mine, Heroku can retrieve the data, filter it, format it and store it on a Hadoop cluster. Salesforce can provide the interface for querying and reporting on all the retrieved data.
Are you providing an eCommerce solution that requires complex orchestration of web services? Macy's uses Heroku as a key technology of their omni-channel strategy to maximize revenues from mobile eCommerce, macys.com and bloomingdales.com.
As fashion seasons change, customer tastes fluctuate and Macy's deploys marketing promotions, Heroku provides the scalability and performance to handle seasonal traffic spikes. The platform provides the flexibility for customers to choose from millions of products and shop with the assistance of recommender systems ("customers who bought this also bought that"). The system presents deals and promotions, grants access to wedding registries, displays store locations and supports the customer with loyalty programs.
Do you have a huge channel to support in complex ways? Forever Living is a wellness business with more than 14 million customers and distributors in 150 countries. Its business outgrew the ability of its legacy mainframe systems to support. Forever Living not only needed better tools for the company’s management, it needed to provide data access to millions of distributors.
Forever Living built and deployed applications in under 90 days on Heroku and Salesforce to display data on real-time channel performance, customer purchases, and materials planning for the supply chain, among numerous other data points. Their 100 million rows of data (and growing) is accessible worldwide on desktops, web browsers, or mobile devices. Mobile has been a key platform to allow distributors to see their volume and other performance information, plus e-mail, chat or videoconference when needed.
With Heroku’s bi-directional syncing, Forever Living ensures that Salesforce updates are reflected in the Heroku PostgreSQL database, and updates made in Heroku PostgreSQL are reflected in Salesforce.
For our consulting firm, the reduced app development time has presented us with exceptional flexibility to offer our clients. In one instance the client considered an alternative that would have cost over $500,000 to deploy. We've been able to accomplish the client’s development objectives on Force.com and Heroku for 25% of that investment, in less than half the time.
Force.com and Heroku are just one of many potentially winning combinations you can choose from. The key takeaway is to make your platform selection carefully and be aware of the new options available to you for reducing cost and lowering the risk of integration issues. You'll live with your middleware decision for the next five to ten years. To maximize the odds for implementation success, identify your current and long term strategic goals. Complete a technology assessment to verify whether you can deploy the needed technology solution with in house resources or whether you need to engage with a trusted outside vendor. Then go forward and integrate with confidence.
Michael Rockford is a Partner, Technical Architect and Lead Developer at Cloud Software LLC. Michael is a Salesforce.com Certified Developer (401), specializing in the design and building of CRM and custom solutions for Enterprise and SMB customers. He is a leader in Agile methodology and proficient in architecture and design, data migration, analysis, development of Apex triggers, classes and controllers, custom Salesforce object creation, complex integrations and implementing solutions using standard and custom tools.
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