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Salesforce seeks DevOps street cred with CD Foundation

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Salesforce recently joined the Linux Foundation’s Continuous Delivery Foundation to help grow the CI/CD ecosystem. This move seems to have gone unnoticed by many, but two things stood out to me about it.

I wasn’t aware that Salesforce had its own DevOps tool, Salesforce DX, which enables developers to collaboratively build and continuously deliver apps. You’d expect that a successful, born-on-the-cloud CRM vendor the size of Salesforce has its own DevOps tooling; I’d just never heard about it.

Mostly, I know Salesforce because the company’s popular CRM platform dominates the market with as much as 27% of the CRM pie. Salesforce also has a cache of popular developer tools for building web, cloud and mobile apps with which I’m familiar. Also, co-founder Marc Benioff has an outsized persona and deep ties to the San Francisco Bay area.

The other thing that stood out is that when I think of open-source contributors, I typically don’t think about Salesforce. The company recently moved its Lightning Web Components to open source, but the Lightning UI failed to catch on among many of Salesforce’s ISV partners because of performance issues and inadequate features, especially extensibility to other CRM, e-commerce and ERP apps, said Albert Pang, president of Apps Run The World in Dublin, Calif.

Yet now Salesforce joins a group whose main focus is on open-source technology.

The CD Foundation now hosts some of the most-used CI/CD tools around, including Jenkins, JenkinsX, Spinnaker and Tekton. Salesforce itself adopts continuous delivery practices and tools, and now the company will work with the CD Foundation to work on specs for CI/CD pipelines and workflows, said Mark Interrante, senior vice president of engineering at Salesforce. Moreover, Salesforce joins CloudBees, IBM, Google, CapitalOne, CircleCI, JFrog, Huawei and Netflix as a premier member of the foundation. Meanwhile, Salesforce is also a member of the Linux Foundation, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, Hyperledger, the Internet Security Research Group/Let’s Encrypt and the OpenAPI initiative.

I felt like I was missing something by not knowing about the company’s DevOps capabilities or the depth of Salesforce’s contributions to open source. But feedback from analysts who cover the industry wasn’t all that different than mine.

“I think that it’s great to see that they are making an additional step around open source like this,” said Thomas Murphy, an analyst at Gartner. “They have had open source support in the past and especially where they are positioned as a platform for development as opposed to the Salesforce CRM SaaS.”

Salesforce is not a big player in this arena, but they are making steps here because of the strength of the developer market and their desire to have a viable platform with market longevity, such as Heroku and Cloud Foundry, Murphy said. This will be key for Salesforce to maintain a strong position in the Python space and build services that users connect to. Salesforce already supports Jenkins and Buildpacks, so this is just more publicity on the open-source front, he said.

Salesforce aims to become a major enterprise application platform. On the DevOps front, that means the company must add continuous delivery capabilities to its portfolio, just like it added universal data analytics capabilities through its recent $15 billion acquisition of Tableau, said Torsten Volk, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates on Boulder, Colo.

“I see the $100,000 per year membership of the Linux foundation more as a starting signal telling everyone that Salesforce intends to become the hyperscale cloud for enterprise applications,” Volk said.

Another interesting point is that GitHub activity around Salesforce has doubled since January, 2019, with the Salesforce Cumulus project and the TransmorgrifAI auto ML library project leading the charge.

“Salesforce certainly has the resources and the talent to jumpstart its CI/CD and open source strategy and this is what we may be witnessing right now, Volk said. “Salesforce is going out to get its share of the public cloud pie.”