Starting this weekend salesforce.com will begin the seasonal upgrade to Winter ’12. As usual this release is packed with tons of great new features. So what is the best new feature? Chatter approvals, nope. Native JSON support, nope. Schema builder, nope. API improvements, nope. By far the most important feature of the Winter 12 release is this:
General Availability During Major Release Upgrades
Starting with Winter ’12, Salesforce will be generally available during major release upgrades.
General availability means you should only expect to experience up to a five minute disruption of service as your Salesforce
organization is upgraded. Users trying to access Salesforce during this time receive an error message that the service is unavailable
and they can log back in momentarily. In addition, users logged into Salesforce during a major release upgrade may be
temporarily logged out.
This may not seem like a big deal but it is (insert Boston accent here) absolutely frickin HUGE! You may think that 6 hours of downtime three times a year is not that much, and honestly its not, but 6 hours in a row is a big deal. Also, assuming salesforce.com has no other downtime (we can wish, right?) this still only gets you between two and three 9s up uptime. This is a huge problem for customer service call centers. Having your customer service system go down for 6 hours is simply not an option and is a deal breaker for large enterprise companies. There are many examples of salesforce.com not being able to successfully close Service Cloud deals because of this one issue alone. Reducing these upgrades times to less than five minutes places salesforce.com in the elite 4-5 9s range of uptime.
This change is important because it brings down one of the few remaining, and legitimate, barriers to cloud adoption. Sure there will still be unscheduled downtime and emergency maintenance but if you have noticed in the communications from salesforce.com a lot of these are also being performed under that status of being “General Available”. salesforce.com and cloud computing in general definitively has it’s weaknesses. Most of these are minor and feature specific weaknesses yet downtime during upgrades was a weakness that could totally prevent the adoption of salesforce.com. Now this will no longer be an issue… and I’m sure the salesforce.com account executives will have a much easier conversation with potential customers when asked about down time for upgrades.