Seeking to extend its vertical reach, NetSuite Inc. today became the latest Software as a Service (SaaS) vendor to roll out programming tools.
At an event in San Francisco, the San Mateo, Calif.-based vendor unveiled its SuiteFlex platform, a set of development tools to extend the company's on-demand ERP, CRM and e-commerce applications via-third-party add-ons.
"We started out targeting the broad verticals," said Mini Peiris, NetSuite's vice president of product marketing. "We're rolling out the platform and toolset to allow third parties to take that into deeper niche verticals."
For example, NetSuite's channel of around 150 partners will be able to build out very specific functionality for an industry such as a window and door manufacturer, where specific measurements and designs need to be added into the order and sale processes.
All development and extensions are housed in NetSuite's data centers and can be upgraded seamlessly in synch with the company's core applications, Peiris said.
The announcement comes on the heels of Salesforce.com's release earlier this month of Apex, its own programming language built to serve its AppExchange directory of on-demand applications.
"We've built out the ability to control how the interface is conveyed to the user," Peiris said. "The SuiteScript UI objects allows a developer, partner or customer to tailor their business process into NetSuite but have it look and feel like NetSuite built it themselves."
The SuiteFlex platform is immediately available and included with a NetSuite subscription. The Suitelets and SuiteBundler, a cloning tool that allows ISVs and integrators to package applications and customizations together into a user account, will be available with the next major release in the second quarter of 2007.
The tools are available to NetSuite customers as well as partners and, while NetSuite's customer base is predominantly in small and medium-sized businesses without large IT operations, Peiris said many will be taking advantage.
"Our larger customers, more of the midmarket folks, are doing a lot of this already," she said. "The programming extensions are industry standard java script. It's not compiled code, it's scripting language easy to use and leverage."
NetSuite has also launched a directory to deliver open source Suitelets to customers and the NetSuite partner and development community to facilitate sharing of code and get the customization program going.
While the technologies are similar, NetSuite's strategy is different from Salesforce.com's Apex in that NetSuite is not so much looking for developers to build out custom applications.
"With NetSuite we are the core system of record," Peiris said. "We see the platform as serving a need to extend into verticals and is really about business process customization."