James Governor's Monkchips

Dreamforce 2015: We’re Going To Need a Bigger Boat

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Last week I travelled to San Francisco for Dreamforce 2015. The annual Salesforce.com conference is actually kind of weird in that it is optimised for scale but it also fun. Seriously – I  much prefer small conferences. To me 150 is the right number for a really good community-based event. Not @benioff – oh no…. this year Salesforce had 150,000 people attending, and, strangely it it actually felt like a community… having fun. That’s right – Dreamforce is fun. And did I say – One Hundred and Fifty Thousand People.

My colleague Fintan has already written about the increased developer focus on display this year, and I will just double down on that. The developer zone was crazy – I would guess at a rough estimate there were five times as many attendees as last year. There were people in lines everywhere, waiting happily for stuff, whether that stuff be schwag, training, or just a seat to sit and hack. There was quite literally nowhere to stand, or even sit down. You could get cold beer though – thanks Wind River.

The most popular sessions in the Dev zone were about Salesforce Lightning – the company’s Javascript framework designed for UIs that don’t suck. I know, right. Enterprise software user experience is still generally pretty bad, and much though Salesforce.com is a lot more usable than Siebel ever was, it was still looking like software from 10+ years ago. So Lightning brings a Javascript framework approach, for drag and drop programming to Force data back ends. Salesforce is not primarily about elite developers. It’s about software that humans can use to compose new services. Where Microsoft in its pomp had “IT Pros”, Salesforce today has “admins”, folks that configure services to tailor them to enterprise needs. RedMonk is pretty skeptical of drag and drop magic, but Salesforce is doing a solid job of creating composition environments that will make its admins even more effective, and will be very familiar to people that have learned just enough Javascript to be dangerous.

More than a week later and I can still hear the cheerleaders in the Admin keynote with Parker Harris: “Admins, AWESOME. AWESOME Admins”. Salesforce is adept at making stars of its community.

For me however the red meat for developers came in the Heroku keynote.

Today Github is quite simply, where software gets built. With that as a core design principle Heroku introduced Heroku Flow for continuous delivery. Changes to apps today are managed using  pull requests, so Heroku built Pipelines around that, making reviews of pull requests into a consistent, managed, process. So you create a new app in production on Heroku to test the change, promote and review on Heroku, before merging from Github. Of course with Heroku you can also easily build and tear down environments, with containers under the covers.

Today it’s not enough to just offer hosting or even black box PaaS- developers are increasingly looking for services that allow them to deploy private networks in the public cloud, making geographical choices about where to host data – initially in Oregon, Frankfurt or Tokyo. Heroku also announced Private Spaces for programmability at the network layer. You can now do stuff like have a database (Postgres, Redis etc) with a static IP address. This kind of functionality is increasingly a big deal. Public cloud wins on convenience, but the market has made it very clear that data location and governance are not optional extras.

Code is important, but the most important thing in an ecosystem is learning and education. Trailhead, a gamified tech learning environment has the installed base all fired up, and is a welcome departure from the usual CorporateSoftwareDeveloperNetwork.com, Circa 1996. We’ll be watching with interest to see whether Trailhead can turn admins into coders, and coders into elite developers. It’s all about raising the skills base. The admin thing- Salesforce creates jobs, which is great. It also has an eye for diversity.

I had a good time, it was great to hang out with people like Arti, Jesper, Craig, Morten, John, and Steve. It was also great to wait for 45 minutes for a table at Samovar with James and Quinton – lovely people, proper dev evangelists.

I’ll be back next year. Salesforce paid my T&E. i am slightly terrified however, in case They shoot for 200k people next time. We may need a bigger boat.

One comment

  1. It was great hanging out with you, too, James — we must spend more time together in the UK when I am next there.

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