Salesforce Is Tackling Blockchain from a Frontend and Backend Perspective

C. Dunlap

Summary Bullets:

  • Salesforce Lightning Platform’s low-code app development technology is the cornerstone of its blockchain strategy.
  • MuleSoft will eventually add compelling backend integration capabilities to customers’ blockchain projects.

Salesforce used its annual developer conference to announce its entrance into the blockchain platform space last week, a compelling prospect considering its strengths in frontend app development via its low-code expertise and, more recently, backend integration capabilities through its newly acquired MuleSoft.

Salesforce announced a beta version of Salesforce Blockchain, extending the company’s CRM platform and providing enterprises with the building blocks to launch new blockchain projects through trusted partner networks.

Blockchain represents an exciting prospect for replacing an antiquated paper-based system of business/commerce exchange with one supporting trusted, immutable ledgers capable of supporting applications with business partners. However, distributed ledger technology, whose objective is to modernize how global companies conduct business to reduce inefficiencies, fraud, and security risks, is extremely complex and intimidating to implement. Known for its expertise in CRM and business workflow technologies, Salesforce is well positioned to help citizen developers build blockchain networks and applications to share verified data through its Lighting Platform, including the ability to connect non-Salesforce partners to the network.

Similar to Salesforce’s success in operationalizing artificial intelligence (AI), the company’s hoping to strip away the complexities of blockchain, which is how it will actually be able to compete with the likes of IBM and other mega cloud vendors known for preserving comprehensive development solutions along with all the complexities that accompany those solutions aimed at savvier developers. Last year, Salesforce made Einstein Analytics more accessible by enabling users to work with data using natural language queries and chart type recommendations, improving ease of use by non-IT professionals.

Now Salesforce will apply that same low-code approach to blockchain, already highlighting a key customer through a compelling demonstration last week with Arizona State University. The demo illustrated Salesforce’s ability to support a practical application: in this case, the saving and sharing of students’ college transcripts to ease the application process. More importantly, the exercise emphasized Salesforce’s ability to abstract underlying blockchain infrastructure complexities. The solution, which supports Hyperledger Sawtooth, will be generally available next year.

Equally important to Salesforce’s modern frontend enterprise development efforts in blockchain, AI, etc. going forward (but not included in Salesforce’s blockchain announcement) will be its newfound backend integration capabilities stemming from its recent acquisition of MuleSoft for keeping its platforms relevant among enterprise customers. Last week, Southwest Airlines told GlobalData that having access to MuleSoft’s integration technology through the Salesforce Platform is a game-changer. That’s because the integration technology will play a key role in connecting Salesforce apps with third-party systems and apps, making the airline’s customer app experience even richer and more engaging. MuleSoft has already begun work demonstrating to customers how its Anypoint Platform connects and exposes a blockchain proxy layer API to share data and monitor transactions.

Progress around MuleSoft’s integration efforts is expected to be announced during Salesforce’s mega conference, Dreamforce, held in San Francisco this fall. Salesforce’s flagship developer platform, Heroku, will likely be the initial benefactor of the MuleSoft integration technology, extending Heroku’s capabilities with support for modern application architectures including microservices and serverless computing.

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