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On Cloud 9 with Force.com and Development-as-a-Service

Being an ISV working on the Force.com platform has, its fair to say presented a few challenges we didn’t expect to face, relating to things we take for granted within an ISV development environment on previous platforms. Such as team working, source control management, overnight builds, packaging and deployment out to our internal teams. Since starting the project last year, we’ve worked closely with Salesforce to create the best solution we could using the tools we’ve had to date, allowing us to progress through a number of sprints successfully. With their recent announcement we finally see a true ISV focused development toolset emerge.

Take for example the act of deploying into our various testing teams our latest build. This has been taking up to 45 minutes per installation of manual effort, due to the pre-packaged state of the software at this phase in the project. This time has been due to a lack of full automation in this area of the platform. That is until Force.com provided us with the Metadata API and corresponding Ant tasks. With these tools we can now fully automate this process bringing daily installs down to no more than a few minutes each with the additional option of unattended scheduled refreshes into our automated testing team should we wish. Another much anticipated release for us is that of the Force.com IDE. An Eclipse plug-in that allows extensive access to the platform without going via the traditional browser UI, which while fine in cases where the more declartive style development is the focus, for hard core coding and UI development it is simply not as productive as dedicated desktop IDE. Through integrating with Eclipse Salesforce have leveraged a powerful platform for creating further productivity tools and leveraging existing integration such as those providing access to source control databases. As CODA is keen to keep its source managed locally this is a very important aspect for us. Finally a feature of the platform previously dismissed by CODA as being inflexible for our demanding ISV needs has returned, in the form of the Force.com Sandbox. This feature now allows us much greater control and ease of deployment from a central installation. We are currently looking at ways to maximise this feature within our testing and demo environments. Since day one of working with Salesforce they have been very interested in our needs as an ISV, especially one with the challenge of building such a complex app as an interational accounting system with a new and relatively small team. This latest set of deliverables from them is proof that listening and more importantly delivering to ISVs is very important to them. Andy – Architect

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