Dreamforce, if you don't know, is an experience that cannot be shoehorned into conventional terms like a tech conference. It is so much more than that. Sure, there is a business expo that allows product and services companies to show their wares. There is also a keynote along with sessions around the Platform. However, with over 170k+ registered users, over 1600 sessions, and a gala night (called Dreamfest) featuring the Foo Fighters, Gary Clark Jr, and The Killers; Dreamforce can be more accurately described as a GeekFest for Salesforce developers and users the world over. This was my second Dreamforce and it was even more jam-packed, fun and interesting than last year.
There were quite a few new product announcements this year. This post will explore some of these announcements from a developers point of view.
The App Cloud
It sounds like a marketing re-brand of all technologies under the Salesforce umbrella that you can use to build enterprise desktop and mobile applications. However, it is much more than that. As Salesforce likes to remind us that "Every company is in the app business". You can stay ahead of the competition if you can rapidly build innovative apps for your customers, for your employees, and for your partners. Ideally, you'd want to evolve these apps or build new ones when your company strategy changes in response to customer demands, technology innovation and trends.
The App Cloud will enable your business to respond to these factors in a rapid fashion. It is comprised of:
- The "API-first" Force.com platform - build enterprise apps using either drag and drop tools or Apex and Visualforce for custom functionality
- Heroku - a polyglot platform with features like DX, Enterprise, Elements, Private Spaces [Beta], and Connect
- Lightning - With Lightning component framework and Lightning app builder both developers and admins now have a new toolkit to build desktop and mobile apps at lightning speed (see what I did there!)
- Trailhead - fun, interactive and a free way to learn Salesforce. Trailhead launched last year without a lot of fuss, however with over 60 modules it has transformed into a kick-ass learning portal for learning basic, intermediate and advanced Salesforce concepts.
- Thunder - massively scalable real-time processing engine that uses Stream and Event based primitives
- AppExchange and the new Lightning Exchange - the app store for business apps offers not only apps but also components so now customers have a myriad choice of business applications that will make them more efficient and productive.
Lightning strikes again!
Last year, Salesforce introduced the Lightning Component framework, and the Lightning App Builder which gave us a glimpse of where the platform was headed. This year, Salesforce introduced the new Lightning Desktop UI which will eventually replace the current Classic UI. The new design is not just skin-deep though; it was built ground up to support Lightning Components. So if you don't like the default layout or an existing component, then you can replace any or all of it by either building your own components or using a pre-built component from the component app-store(called Lightning Exchange). Also, Salesforce themselves will be building new features on the platform using the Lightning Components. This is huge.
It will not only change how we build apps on the platform but also opens up new avenues to upgrade the platform in the future. It can be improved or upgraded one component at a time. Lightning Desktop, however, will be rolled out gradually. It won't support everything from the get go so you might have to plan the rollout accordingly.
This is where I spent most of my time this year. The main theme of the Devzone was Trailhead. There was a huge push to complete trailhead badges at Dreamforce so they were offering a lot of cool swag if you complete (or blaze) a Trail.
We also had the usual Mobile Theatre, Innovation Theatre, and the Developer Theatre for talks on a variety of things like Lightning components, Apex testing, Ionic Framework, React framework, Development Best practices, and Continuous Integration etc. The only downside to these sessions was that there were too many of them and one couldn't possibly attend them all. Then there was the IoT zone where you could hang out with a number of cool IoT companies doing innovative things like creating a Fitbit for your car, or platforms that connect your devices to the Internet, or building 3D printers.
If you had an Apex or Visualforce problem you could ask the Experts in the Code Consultation section, or you could complete in one or more mini-hacks to win tons of prizes including apple iWatch and a macbook.
There was a ton of stuff you could do in the Devzone and thankfully you had four days to do it.
This year there was also a special Design HQ section with UX experts on hand to explain the working and philosophy behind the new Lightning Desktop UI.
The main keynote by Marc Benioff, accompanied by the "Lightning man" - Parker Harris, introduced us to the new Lightning Desktop UI, Lightning Exchange and the App Cloud. They also unveiled the new SalesforceIQ CRM - a smart simple CRM for small businesses. The real surprise in the keynote was the announcement of the Salesforce IoT cloud powered by Thunder, a massively scalable real-time processing engine. Clearly, the Product and Innovation team at Salesforce has been busy this year.
The Developer Keynote led by Adam Seligman and Samantha Ready went into a bit more detail about the App Cloud and the new and enhanced Heroku platform features. All of us are now "App Cloud" developers. I was most excited about the Docker support for Heroku, which can take the development lifecycle on the platform to the next level. Can't wait to get my hands on it. Morton Bagai also took to the stage to talk about Salesforce Shield (includes Event Monitoring, Field Audit Trail, and Platform Encryption), and to launch Heroku Private Spaces - a private PaaS, delivered as-a-Service.
Both keynotes mentioned the new Trailhead platform that makes learning Salesforce fun.
There were an insane amount and variety of swag this year that could be collected from the developer and admin zone, and also from the business expo. This picture only gives a glimpse of swag available for loot.
Onwards and upwards to DF16 (only 364 days to go)!