[nycphp-talk] SalesForce

Paul A Houle paul at
Mon Aug 9 13:23:31 EDT 2010

Fernando Gabrieli wrote:
> Hi all, i'm working for a company which is considering creating a 
> website using SalesForce
> I've been asked about how many time it would take for a developer to 
> get into it
> Have you ever used it? How much did it take to you to get familiar?
> thanks in advance
> best regards
> Fernando
    I haven't made "Salesforce pages" (public-facing web sites that run 
on the SF platform) but I have done some work with the API and I made it 
to Dreamforce last year.

    From a technical point of view,  you can develop public and private 
facing SF applications with a system that's very similar to modern MVC 
frameworks like CakePHP or symfony,  but you'd do coding in a language 
called APEX,  which is derived from Java,  and the database is somewhere 
between SQL and NoSQL.  There's a Web UI builder in the IDE for it,  so 
you can build simple pages with very little coding -- I saw a demo aimed 
at marketing people where they were able to knock up a form in the 
builder in about five minutes.  Particularly looking at the API I see a 
lot of similarities between the SF platform and the Facebook platform,  
but SF is really optimized for classic OLTP applications and doesn't 
have the specializations for large social networks that you see in sites 
like FB or LinkedIn.

    That said,  I find the business of Salesfore puzzling.  I like 
building web sites that are supported by advertising,  so think in terms 
of eCPM,  which is typically between $0.25-$5.00 for the sites I make.  
Pages hosted on the SF platform cost $1.00 eCPM to host,  which would 
eat an unacceptable amount of my profits...  Particularly when the costs 
of a more conventional system (MySQL/PHP,  or MSSQL/ASP.NET) is probably 
1/100 that assuming reasonable scale and utilization.  SF has an ARPU of 
around $1000 a year...  If it wasn't possible to provision a similar 
kind of service for 1/1000 the price,  it wouldn't be possible for 
Facebook to exist.  You'd think,  given the prices they charge,  SF 
would have good margins,  but according to what they file with the 
S.E.C.,'s margins are much much smaller than those of 
Amazon Web Services!

    In the back end,  SF has several big clusters that center around an 
instance of Oracle 10g,  and they buy lots of gold plated hardware.  The 
reliability of SF is excellent,  and performance is really good for OLTP 
work,  but the platform is weak for analytics,  network analysis and 
anything that doesn't fit into its paradigm...  They charge something 
like $1K / month/ GB for database storage,  which is just nuts...  They 
could be storing it in RAM for what they're charging.

    Overall,  if your company is already using SF and you want to build 
applications that communicate with your SF database in an OLTP manner,  
SF pages are a reasonable way to go.  If you don't already have a 
commitment to SF,  I'd stay away.  They like to recall the days that 
they were a disruptive upstart,  but I think 10 years from now they're 
going to be seen as an over-the-hill high cost provider.

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