Database.com, unveiled recently at Salesforce's annual Dreamforce conference, is an open database that the vendor claims will work with any device, platform and application.
"We see cloud databases as a massive market opportunity that will power the shift to enterprise applications that are natively cloud, mobile and social," said Marc Benioff, Salesforce's chairman and CEO, in a Dec. 7 statement.
"For the first time, we are making database.com, the database that is proven and trusted by our 87,000 customers, available as an open, standalone service to accelerate the creation of these new apps."
The industry shift to mobile apps, to a social data model, and to an event-driven, push model all require a new kind of cloud database to support the next generation of enterprise apps.
"We're seeing a rise in the popularity of cloud enabled database management systems that remove the complexity of software and hardware, and deliver automatic scalability, tuning and back-up," said Gartner analyst Donald Feinberg.
Built for Cloud Computing
Database.com -- scheduled to be available this year -- combines the best features of enterprise databases (such as user management, row-level security, triggers, stored procedures, authentication and powerful APIs) with the benefits of cloud computing.
For CIOs, IT departments and developers, database.com provides many benefits over client/server databases. They can write their applications in Java, C#, Ruby, PHP and other languages. And, they can run those apps on any platform -- Force.com, VMforce, Amazon EC2, Google AppEngine, Heroku or Microsoft Azure.
Plus, all apps can run natively on any device, such as an Android phone, Blackberry, iPad, or iPhone. Small or large, the apps can all call the database.com APIs securely over the Internet.
Competition for Amazon, Microsoft
While the announcement marks Salesforce's entrance into the $21 billion market for database programs, now led by Oracle, database.com is more likely to compete with Amazon's Relational Database Service (RDS) and Microsoft's SQL Azure than with Oracle.
Customers of products such as Oracle's database typically pay annual maintenance fees. Salesforce.com charges by the month per user. Microsoft, too, charges by the month.
Microsoft charges $49.95/month for a 5GB size database and $99.99/month for a 10GB database that can grow to 50GB, at a rate of $99.99/month per 10 GB increment.
Data transfers in and out of SQL Azure are billed at 10 cents in/15 cents out. Charges accumulate on a daily basis and are based on the maximum database size used each day. A 5GB database will cost about 33 cents; (that is, $9.99 divided by 30) per day.
As Microsoft's pricing is mostly size-based, SQL Azure users have virtually unlimited, free access to computation and queries.
The result is a very different billing model to that of Amazon's RDS, which bases its charges on a combination of both storage and compute time. Depending on the performance of the server used, Amazon prices start at 11 cents; per hour for computation, plus 10 cents per GB.
To add more confusion to the mix, database.com will have a different pricing model.
Basic database.com services, including database access, file storage and automatic administration, are : free for 3 users, and up to 100,000 records and 50,000 transactions/month; $10/month for each set of 100,000 records beyond that; and $10/month for each set of 150,000 transactions beyond that Database.com Enterprise Services are $10/user/month and include user identity, authentication and row-level security access controls.
Clearly, choosing one service over another is not easy. Developers have their work cut out to find the best service for their needs.