SAN FRANCISCO — Salesforce and VMware are turning cloud computing into a Java runtime environment. The companies today announced a partnership that is intended to use the Spring framework to enable a Java cloud. The system will run on top VMware’s vSphere virtualization infrastructure and will be hosted at

The new hosted service will be called VMforce, and according to the companies, will be able to host any Java application that can be built to utilize Salesforce’s databases.

According to Mark Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, Java developers currently lack a simple path to cloud deployment. “There are over 6 million developers who know Java,” he said. “It has transformed this industry and brought enterprises onto the Internet. But enterprise Java developers don’t have a clear path into the cloud. Can they deliver these next-generation cloud applications? Is there a gap between where Java is and where cloud computing is going?”

Paul Maritz, CEO of VMware, said that “developers value, above everything else, productivity.” He said that, for new applications, deployment to a cloud can increase productivity and reduce internal IT complexity. He said that these benefits are at the heart of the partnership between VMware and Salesforce.

Benioff declared that he and Maritz “believe that this gap must be filled, and that it’s an imperative, so we can deliver those Java developers to the cloud. That’s why we’re coming together, because we believe strongly it is time to deliver the next generation of application development and deployment capabilities.”

According to the companies, VMforce should open up to the public this fall. The Java hosting cloud will be based on VMware’s vSphere virtualization management software, which itself originated as a set of internal tools at cloud hosting provider Terramark. Those tools have been evolving and maturing into a forthcoming internal cloud systems management tool suite, based upon the needs of VMware’s preliminary customers.

On top of vSphere, the VMforce cloud will offer a Spring application-hosting layer and a database. Developers will use the SpringSource Tool Suite to build and deploy applications built specifically for the VMforce cloud. Those tools will include automatic analysis tools that can call out the portions of an application that will need to be changed to work in a cloud environment.

Rod Johnson, general manager of VMware’s SpringSource business unit, demonstrated the creation of a VMforce application on stage during the announcement. “The SpringSource Tool Suite is a free development environment,” he said. “You’re able to use the familiar skill sets of Java and Spring. If we wanted to create a new application, there are a number of wizards. We can simply create a new application using Spring template wizards.”

The VMforce platform is targeted at developers creating new Java applications for the cloud. Peter Cooper-Ellis, senior vice president of engineering and product management at VMware’s SpringSource business division, said that applications using Enterprise JavaBeans aren’t candidates for moving to VMforce, and that other Java EE applications would require significant rework in order to run in that environment.