hopes revamp will calm outage fears

Officials at last week said the company is nearing completion of a $US50 million infrastructure overhaul that they hope will stem fears that arose after a service outage last month.

The company first disclosed plans for the new platform for its hosted software business last August. The updated infrastructure will include a new data center on the East Coast and two on the West Coast. The so-called Mirrorforce system will have replication capability, so that when one center goes down, another can immediately take over.

Mirrorforce is due to go live this winter, said Bruce Francis, chief strategist at San Francisco-based "When complete, it will enable virtually instant disaster-recovery fail-over that should help keep our customers online in the event of a natural or man-made disaster," he said.

The system was upgraded to accommodate the new AppExchange system, which will host hundreds of applications written by and its partners, Francis said.

"We assessed what we would need to deliver those benefits and continue to scale ahead of our customer needs, and Mirrorforce is the answer," he said. CEO Marc Benioff said he is confident that the back-end infrastructure will be strong enough to support the myriad hosted applications the company plans to offer through AppExchange.

"That's why we've made huge investments in all this new technology," he said. "We've wholesale replaced our architecture, our hardware, our software, to get us to the next level [of service]."

However, for one disgruntled user, who asked that he and his company not be identified, the upgrade won't make a difference. The user, who heads a high-tech firm, started using's CRM service last year. By August, he said, system availability had become intermittent.

The problems induced the company to craft a homegrown CRM application in October. The user said he is encouraged by the Mirrorforce initiative, but he's not going to return to "We got benefit from [using]," he said. "I hope they do well." said the upgrade is unrelated to the December outage of its hosted CRM service, which it called a temporary glitch. The outage lasted a full day for some customers, and some critics said it was an indication that the infrastructure had reached its limit. unveils Marketplace last week finally launched its oft-discussed platform for hosting non-CRM applications that it and third parties have created.

Plans for the AppExchange software services marketplace were first disclosed by the hosted software vendor in September.

The AppExchange network allows software developers to create, market and deliver applications to subscribers. The infrastructure is managed by so that the partners providing the software -- and their customers -- won't have to worry about reliability and security.

Toronto-based Drake International is already using a sales proposal application delivered through AppExchange, said Duc Lam, database and marketing manager at the staffing services and products provider.

Lam said AppExchange is a very "straightforward platform" to work on, requiring only a few hours to build, test and deploy. Drake also uses's CRM offering.

As for pricing, the application user negotiates privately with the developer for access to the latter's application. is offering some of its new applications to CRM subscribers without charge.

The company hopes the new offering will help it expand beyond the traditional CRM hosting business, said Phil Robinson, chief marketing officer at

Prior to last week's unveiling, and its partners had already placed 160 applications on AppExchange, including payment-processing and real estate management software. End users can access the software through a Web browser. and its partners will provide hooks to help connect hosted applications to a customer's internal systems, said Robinson. Customers looking for a human resource application can look at the available listings, read reviews and test the application before making a deal with the application's developer, he said.

Among the partners that have listed applications on the site are Adobe Systems and Business Objects.

AppExchange's application marketplace works as follows:

  • It gives subscribers access to custom applications from and its partners.
  • The buyer negotiates the price with the seller.
  • gets revenue from non-CRM subscribers.
  • Some applications can be used free.

Elizabeth Montalbano of the IDG News service contributed to this story.

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