Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you will be able to:

  • Define key terms related to the Salesforce architecture.
  • Find information related to trust.
  • Explain at least one use case for Salesforce APIs.


The platform is your secret sauce for delivering a highly customized experience to your customers, employees, and partners. Using the platform, you can customize standard functionality and create custom pages, components, apps, and more, and you can do it all faster than you might expect.

So what makes the platform “secret sauce” so special? It all starts with our architecture model.

Architecture Basics

As you’re getting to know the Salesforce architecture, it can be helpful to imagine it as layers, built on top of each other.

The Salesforce architecture.

  • Trusted Multitenant Cloud: At Salesforce, trust is our #1 priority, which is why our trusted, multitenant cloud is our foundation for everything we build.
  • Scalable, Metadata Platform: The secret sauce of our platform is its metadata-driven architecture. All customizations in the Salesforce schema, including code, configuration, apps, and more, are specified as metadata. In our architecture, we keep your metadata layer separate from our services layer, which allows us to give you seamless, easy upgrades.
  • Fast App Dev & Customization: That scalable metadata layer is what helps you go faster and get live quicker.
  • Largest Enterprise Ecosystem: Our partners in our ecosystem understand the value of that secret sauce, and this is a big part of the reason so many of them build on our platform.
  • Complete CRM: So what goes on top of all of this? Complete CRM functionality, so you can support your sales, service, analytics, marketing, community, and apps needs on our trusted platform.
  • API: Finally, we wrap it all up with a powerful suite of APIs, which allow you to develop and customize, and also give us the power to create things like the Salesforce1 Mobile App (more on this later).

Not sure what metadata is? Or what multitenant means? Don’t worry, we’ll cover that next.

Trust, Multitenancy, and the Cloud

Trust is at the foundation of everything we do, and protecting your data is our #1 priority. Our platform is built around a robust and flexible security architecture trusted by companies around the world, including those in heavily regulated industries. Using standard functionality in Salesforce, you get a fine degree of security control over everything from user and client authentication, through administrative permissions to the data access and sharing model.

Because trust is our #1 priority, we also have a whole website dedicated to trust, and if you haven’t yet bookmarked trust.salesforce.com, you should do that right now. On trust.salesforce.com, you can find live performance data, planned maintenance, information on our security practices, and more.

When it comes to multitenancy and the cloud, perhaps the easiest way to explain it is with an analogy. Multitenancy is a bit like renting office space in an office building. You get your own dedicated space, but you share resources for things like power and water, and someone else takes care of all the building maintenance for you. For example, if the elevator needs maintenance, the building owner handles it for you.

A multitenancy analogy.

So what’s the advantage of a multitenant cloud? It means all of our customers, from small businesses to enterprise companies, are on the same code-base and all get the benefits of the same features, functionality, and automatic upgrades 3 times a year.

Let’s talk about those automatic upgrades for a moment. “Enterprise software upgrades” typically have a bad reputation. Seriously, just take a moment to think about the last time you upgraded an enterprise solution. But Salesforce’s upgrades are automatic and seamless. Like an automatic upgrade to first class on a flight or getting a new phone or car, when you get upgrades with Salesforce, it’s a good thing.

The cloud also means we can deliver Software as a Service (SaaS), which is important because it means you don’t have to install a program to use Salesforce. You just need an internet connection to log in.

And although you don’t have to install any applications for the desktop browser experience, by downloading the Salesforce1 Mobile App you can get access to Salesforce anytime, anywhere.

What is Metadata?

Metadata literally means data about data. There are different types of metadata, but when it comes to our scalable, metadata platform, we’re talking about the structure of your Salesforce org. Let’s dive in to explain this further.

When you work with Salesforce, you have configuration and customization specific to your business needs. This includes things like page layouts for your Accounts, Contacts, Leads, and any custom objects. It also includes processes, assignment rules, and sharing and security settings. On the programmatic side, it might also include things like Visualforce pages and Apex triggers. All of this represents what you’ve configured and customized in your org.

Your customer, prospect, and user data is in your org inside all of that structure. Now, imagine all of that data has just been exported. The structure is still there, but the data itself is gone. What you’d have left, that underlying structure, that is the metadata. It’s all of your standard and custom functionality, and all of your configuration and code.

Salesforce’s SaaS model means we make the metadata immediately available for development, configuration, and usage in your org. This is a big part of why you’re able to go so fast using Salesforce.

How the Secret Sauce Helps You Go Faster

Traditionally, if you wanted to build an app, you’d need hardware and software. You’d have to define access and security, set up reports and analytics, and then actually build the app. If you wanted the app to be mobile and social, you’d have to do some work to set that up, too.

Building an app with Salesforce is different. There is no installation of hardware and software, and there are standard options for defining security and user access, creating reports, and making the app social and mobile.

This is, ultimately, the power of the platform, fueled by the easy accessibility of the metadata layer, the cloud, and SaaS. It allows you to innovate quickly, and get to market faster with solutions for your customers, partners, and employees.

Vastly reduce app development time.

If you haven’t done it yet, visit the “Getting Started with the Platform” unit and walk through building the fundraising app, to put this theory to practice.

Like what you see? Curious how we’re able to help you go so fast? Read on!

All About That API

If you’re a programmer, you probably already know what an API is. But for those who are new to programming, API stands for Application Programming Interface, and it’s essentially a contract between two pieces of software, allowing them to connect to each other and exchange information. Let’s use an analogy to illustrate the point further.

Look at the side of your laptop. You’ll see a series of ports, in different shapes and sizes, for different kinds of connections. These are like APIs. Once you connect to them, you can exchange information, without knowing any of the inner details of how they work.

For example, if you were to plug your headphones into the last port on the right, you should start receiving audio information, even though the headphones and the computer don’t know how each other works. This is basically a hardware API in action. Similarly, software APIs allow two pieces of software to communicate with each other via an implied contract.

APIs are just like the ports in your laptop.

Since we’re talking about the API, let’s take a moment to talk about API names and make sure you understand what those are. The API name is a unique identifier that the platform uses to determine what data or metadata you are trying to access. In the example we’re working with right now, we’re going to use your full name, and the unique API name for your full name is Name. Simple enough, right?

Using this API name, we can show your name in the Salesforce1 Mobile App [1]:

Display data in the mobile app.

We can use your name in a custom Visualforce page, to display a welcome message to you [2]:

Display a customized message to your users.

We can use your name in a merge field in an email template, to automatically insert your signature in an email to a customer [3]:

Tailor emails to specific users or customers.

That’s API names. Now back to the API. This part is key. The fact that everything about your app, from its metadata to its data, is API-enabled is profoundly powerful. It means that you can access your Salesforce data via the API and then visualize it, in unique ways you might not have ever imagined. How unique? Try this on for size:

When you think about visualizing your CRM data inside of Minecraft, remember that it’s the API that makes that possible.

For more practical use cases of how the Platform APIs enable new and innovative use cases, check out Salesforce Wear, which includes a set of apps for Apple Watch, Google Glass, and more wearables that all access Salesforce data via APIs.

And if you’re not a programmer, hopefully the examples we’ve shared will show you that APIs are for everyone, including you!

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