A CRM Sandbox For Wary Customers

Susan Hall

Updated · Dec 13, 2005

Don’t you hate it when your new CRM application crashes your system?

Enterprises using Salesforce.com’s hosted applications will soon be able to crash-test their deployments without fear by using Sandbox, an optional service expected this quarter.

Customers can use Sandbox to test new applications installed from AppExchange, evaluate new customizations or features before rolling them out to users, build a development environment for integration testing, or create a safe training environment for employees.

“We’re seeing customers beginning to deploy Salesforce.com across the entire enterprise, not just for CRM,” said Phil Robinson, Salesforce.com’s vice president of global marketing. “Customers are customizing and extending Salesforce.com, so they can build other applications that sit alongside it, and also installing applications out of AppExchange.”

The San Francisco-based hosted applications provider launched AppExchange in September, with the aim of making it easier for third-party developers and customers to find each other. The directory now features 85 pre-built applications.

Robinson said customers will be able to turn on Sandbox with a single click, choosing to either replicate the entire Salesforce.com deployment or the configuration of applications sans data.

Sandbox will include the ability to create a complete copy of the organization’s production database in a completely separate sandbox environment that can be used for configuration-change testing, integration testing, or new user training.

Customers will be able to delete and refresh sandboxes as needed to keep them in sync with any changes or updates made to the production environment. Companies will be able to have all their corporate data and configurations modeled in the sandbox environment, or deploy a configuration-only version that will not include any production data.

“In a traditional client/server or mainframe application, people would have a parallel system for development and testing, but at great cost and complexity,” Robinson said.

Robinson said his company has invested significantly in its data-center facilities in order to support Sandbox; the company sees the effort as part of its strategy to move from being a CRM provider to also becoming a platform for all kinds of on-demand computing.

Sandbox will be available as an additional option for Enterprise Edition customers for $25 per month per user; the configuration-only version, without data, will be $18 per month per user.

The company expects to deliver the testing environment as part of its “Winter ’06,” which is currently scheduled for later in the company’s fourth quarter.

Salesforce.com isn’t the only hosted applications provider to offer a test bed.

A spokesman for RightNow Technologies, a competitor that offers both on-premise and on-demand CRM applications, noted that his company has provided customers with a test environment for their software upgrades and customizations for the last five years for free.

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