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One of the knocks against Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and the broader cloud computing movement is that these web-based, on-demand services can’t be customized to cater to the complex requirements of specific enterprises.

While SaaS solutions have increasingly included a growing array of user configuration capabilities to respond to the individual needs of various organizations, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solutions have emerged over the past couple of years to permit end-users and third-party developers to build their own apps to meet their unique requirements.

The latest indication of the escalating power of these PaaS tools is Wednesday’s announcement unveiling Salesforce.com’s (NYSE:CRM) new Force.com Visual Process Manager. This new feature will allow users to design and build business process-oriented applications quickly so they can automate them across corporate departments.

Although the new Force.com Visual Process Manager won’t be generally available until later this year, it is the latest sign that cloud computing alternatives to traditional, legacy applications and systems are becoming more and more competitive with their on-premise predecessors.

PaaS solutions may never be able to match the level of customization of legacy applications. However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing given the black-hole that many enteprises have faced trying to customize traditional enterprise apps to meet their unique needs. This has often been an endless and costly chore for most organizations which has seldom met their corporate objectives. Instead, it has resulted in many organizations being unable to adopt the latest software updates and upgrades from their vendors.

Rather than employ an army of consultants to customize traditional applications, Force.com Visual Process Manager promises to give corporate end-users the ability to create and implement business process-oriented applications which can achieve greater utilization in a shorter time-to-value.

It is also important to note that this new functionality is the outgrowth of another recent, yet unannounced, Salesforce.com acquisition of a small SaaS vendor, called Informavores, founded in Scotland.

Source: Salesforce.com's New Development Tools Illustrate the Evolution of Cloud Computing