Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff. Photo: Dell
In 2005, long before the Apple App Store, there was the Salesforce.com AppExchange.
If a company used Salesforce’s customer relationship management software, it could come to the AppExchange for additional tools and applications that plugged into that software. It wasn’t the first “app store,” but CEO Marc Benioff famously claims to have given Apple the trademark on that name “App Store” — for free.
Today, Salesforce unveiled a new extension to this service. It’s called Private AppExchange, and the idea is to give companies the power to build their own private version of Salesforce AppExchange, a version that makes it easier for its employees to find and install applications.
AppExchange includes hundreds of applications from hundreds of software makers, and it wasn’t all that easy to find and use them. Typically, you need the help and approval of your company’s IT department. But with Private AppExchange, your IT department can create a custom app catalog of pre-approved web and mobile apps from the larger pool available in the AppExchange, and it can provide a way for you to readily install apps on your own. When you want to use an approved application, you just find it in the catalog and click “install” — just like you would with an app store on your personal phone. This private app store can even include your company’s own custom apps.
The idea is straightforward: Save your IT department time and effort by making it easy for you to install apps yourself. But beneath the surface, Private AppExchange must handle identity management and access control, two notoriously sticky IT problems. AppExchange Private provides IT administrators with a dashboard for customizing the store and setting permissions depending, for example, on what department they work for. The company has also recently introduced Salesforce Identity, an identity management platform.
Salesforce isn’t alone in this market. Companies like AppDirect are also trying to bring app stores to large enterprises, while companies like Okta are providing identity management services for enterprise cloud applications. Outside of work, logging into websites using credentials from your social network of choice has become the norm. Services like Saleforce Identity and Okta are hoping to provide the same sort of convenience for the enterprise world.
These markets are picking up. According to a forthcoming report from AppDirect, 84 percent of the Fortune 100 offer employees external apps of some sort, and 72 percent of the companies it polled that serve consumer and small business markets have already adopted enterprise app stores.
By combining identity and an app store under one roof, Salesforce is hoping to gain an advantage over competitors. But a big question is whether companies will want to make Salesforce the center of the identity ecosystem — the ultimate prize Salesforce is aiming for.