Software provider Salesforce.com has announced plans to launch an online multi-tenant database service, dubbed database.com.
Launching in early 2011, the service will be sold on a per-transaction basis.
The company aims to hook developers in with a free service for three users with up to 100,000 records and 50,000 transactions per month.
Charges kick in for every 100,000 transactions beyond that and 150,000 transactions further, providing a new annuity revenue stream for Salesforce.com.
The vendor also announced a $10 a user a month "database.com enterprise service" for user identity, authentication and row-level security access controls.
The database.com service will be based on the same architecture that supports Salesforce.com's existing sales force automation, CRM and social networking services.
Steve Fisher, vice president of technology at Salesforce.com said today that this Salesforce.com database handled 25 billion requests last quarter - which equates to up to 3000 requests a second. Salesforce.com customers created 20 billion records this year, he said.
Fisher said that the traditional relational database in most enterprises today lacked the scale and flexibility for internet applications.
Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff told the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco that he had tried and failed to build an online database business ten years ago during the dotcom bust.
Benioff said it was "time to rebirth the idea" now that application developers are predominantly writing new apps for mobile internet-connected devices.
"Finally, what we've done is build a massive database in the cloud that is elastic," he said. "We've taken assets we've built up over twelve years and opened it up and branded it as a service."
Benioff said he expected the online database market - in which Microsoft already offers an online SQL service among others - to be "worth double or triple figure billions of dollars."
Salesforce.com chief scientist JP Rajaswamy said that Database.com could do to the enterprise computing market what Skype did to the long distance telephony market - resulting in a massive decline in prices.
"The price of the cloud has been held up by the complexity of the database," he said.
But the company said it had no plans to adjust pricing for its Service and Sales applications should the Database.com platform achieve significant traction.
Database.com will allow iOS app developers to write apps that run native on Apple devices and connect to Database.com over the internet.
Android developers can do the same using Java, as can PHP developers writing web apps connecting to IaaS like Amazon.com.
Developer toolkits have been made available for Java, .Net, Ruby and PHP app developers, for the iOS and Android smartphone platforms, andf for hooks into cloud services such as Google AppEngine, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, networking software from Facebook and Twitter and the Adobe Flash/Flex framework.
Brett Winterford attended Dreamforce as a guest of Salesforce.com. Do you have questions for Salesforce? Feel free to comment below and we'll try and get them answered.