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Salesforce DevOps Center ships to rein in low-code apps

Salesforce DevOps Center rolled out with features meant to bring low-code and pro-code custom apps on its CRM platform up to date with current software development practices.

After nearly two years of fanfare, Salesforce DevOps Center has become generally available this week, with a centralized user interface that will bring custom apps that business users create with its platform into line with code repositories, CI/CD pipelines and Agile development workflows.

Salesforce DevOps Center was previewed by the company in June 2021 as a unified command-line interface (CLI) for pro-code, or traditional, software developers. An updated version with a graphical user interface was released to public beta in July 2022. The generally available version of the product brings together workflows for both low-code business app developers and pro-code developers through integrations with GitHub repositories and the Visual Studio Code IDE, support for configurable pipelines, and a click-based change approval and promotion process.

Salesforce DevOps Center's user interface and pipeline-based application lifecycle management workflows replaced a feature called change sets that developers had previously used to share updates to custom apps, which even a company blog post acknowledged was onerous.

"No more sticky notes and spreadsheets to track changes, or cumbersome interfaces to select changes," according to the post, written by Karen Fidelak, senior director of product management for DevOps Center at Salesforce, in June and updated this week. "Can you say 'good-bye, Change Sets'?!'"

Salesforce DevOps Center offers a Kanban-style interface similar to widely used application lifecycle management tools such as Atlassian's Jira, which keeps track of where various changes to Salesforce apps are in the software development process, including testing, staging and production.

These aren't new features for most mainstream software developers, but they've been a long time coming for Salesforce developers, many of whom have more expertise in business management than creating software, said Christopher Condo, an analyst at Forrester Research.

"There's a growing need for greater discipline in the Salesforce ecosystem, as the Salesforce platform expands to take on more and more enterprise core functionality," Condo said. "Enterprise IT dev leaders see [these] apps becoming critical to operating businesses, hence the need to add discipline in the form of DevOps."

The Salesforce ecosystem is massive, with low-code devs and traditional devs that all build apps that run inside Salesforce. DevOps Center simply provides an option for those developers to adopt a DevOps approach.
Christopher CondoAnalyst, Forrester Research

While Salesforce DevOps Center is limited to use by Salesforce developers, that's still a significant population -- at last official count in 2014, the company had 1.5 million registered developers, according to the Salesforce website. The company also reports 150,000 total customers for its customer relationship management platform to date. And whether enterprise software development managers use them or not, low-code and business app-specific platforms must still be integrated into existing software testing and IT security systems.

"Salesforce is just another platform for running workloads," Condo said. "The Salesforce ecosystem is massive, with low-code devs and traditional devs that all build apps that run inside Salesforce. DevOps Center simply provides an option for those developers to adopt a DevOps approach."

There are already third-party DevOps vendors that market their wares to Salesforce engineers, including Copado, Gearset, Flosum, Flexagon and AutoRabit, which Condo said also reflects growing demand for DevOps practices among Salesforce developers.  

This isn't the first Salesforce foray into software development products -- it acquired PaaS provider Heroku in 2010 and ChatOps vendor Slack in 2020. Going forward, Salesforce DevOps Center developers are researching extending beyond the initial version's support for GitHub and Visual Studio Code to Atlassian's Bitbucket, GitLab, GitHub Enterprise Cloud and on-premises code repositories, according to the product's public roadmap. Features under consideration also include expanded rollback features that would allow changing and customizing work items after they are promoted.

Salesforce isn't the only large business application vendor building low-code development tools for customers -- SAP, for example, rolled out SAP Build in November. Low-code development tools are also gaining traction among major cloud providers such as AWS, which expanded low-code support with the public beta release of Amazon CodeCatalyst and AWS Application Composer earlier this month.

Salesforce DevOps Center is available at no additional cost for users of the Developer, Professional, Enterprise or Unlimited Editions of the Salesforce platform.

Beth Pariseau, senior news writer at TechTarget, is an award-winning veteran of IT journalism. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @PariseauTT.

DevOps Center UI
Salesforce DevOps Center's UI manages and tracks low-code and pro-code updates to custom apps on the company's platform.

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