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Salesforce Architecture: What You Need to Know (and How to Wield It)

July 13, 2020
Erin Ryan
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What originally began as a customer relationship management (CRM) system has evolved into a software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) system. 

Salesforce’s cloud-computing solutions integrate predictive intelligence and development capabilities via proprietary platforms, including Einstein and Lightning. 

It doesn’t stop there. Users also benefit from marketing tools and customized applications, all available at an affordable subscription rate. Salesforce’s robust features and cost-effectiveness lead back to its unique framework. 

Let’s dive into Salesforce architecture, its application programming interfaces (APIs), the multitenant environment and more.

What Is Salesforce Architecture?

Salesforce system architecture all starts in the cloud, but this isn’t as nebulous as it sounds. It simply means the system can be accessed by anyone with login credentials from any spot with an internet connection. 

In years past, anything information technology-related was done on premise. Companies needed to buy software to install on computers, purchase a database and buy servers as well as a physical space to house the hardware. They also needed a CRM, the setting up of which typically required a significant investment of time and money. If businesses wanted to develop solutions on top of the CRM, that required additional components. The process was anything but simple.

Today, cloud-based Salesforce architecture handles all of the infrastructure and maintenance, eliminating the overhead associated with on-premise solutions. Instead, Salesforce subscribers are provided a database and servers at a cost per license or user. Companies can then develop their own applications, customized to meet their needs. 

Salesforce integrates seamlessly with third-party apps, too (e.g., accounting software, email programs) a feature that is difficult to come by with other CRMs. 

What’s more, setting up and implementing Salesforce is faster than typical CRMs. Salesforce can be deployed in weeks compared with the months or years it could take to set up a CRM system. On average, companies using Salesforce platforms see 56% faster deployment, according to the software company.

All of these features allow companies to focus more of their attention on business (and less on technology). 

What Is the Salesforce Multitenant Environment?

Diving deeper into the cloud infrastructure brings us to the concept of a multitenant environment. Salesforce describes this best, comparing it to a secure apartment building with many individual homes. We can think of this in Salesforce terms as “instances.” 

In multitenancy architecture, many instances are housed on one server. All clients within an instance share the building’s resources and database, though all customer-specific data is siloed. Each instance is kept secure with encryption keys that are organization-specific and all instances are continually upgraded to benefit from the latest features and bug fixes. 

Multitenant architecture in Salesforce can result in thousands of customers per instance with more than 50 production instances per cloud. Additionally, there are many Salesforce servers located throughout the world, each housing different instances. 

Salesforce Architecture Components and Uses 

Now let’s take a look at the components that make up Salesforce:

Scalable Metadata Platform

Each server maintains sufficient room to allow each instance the ability to scale. Salesforce’s metadata platform also simplifies collaboration, workflows and analytics. 

Think about your Salesforce Accounts and Contacts tabs. These are examples of objects in Salesforce and you can compare these objects to data tables. They each have fields for entry, or metadata — data about data.  

Metadata allows users to customize their Salesforce and create a unique structure of information. Metadata also can refer to page layouts and security settings. When a user looks at a Salesforce page, the system pulls information from the metadata cache to create a page, recompiling hypertext markup language (HTML) each time a page is loaded. 

APIs are programming components that facilitate connectivity and data communication between different devices and applications.

Salesforce APIs

APIs are programming components that facilitate connectivity and data communication between different devices and applications. Simply put, it’s the way apps speak with each other. Robust APIs are very important for pushing and exchanging data between systems.

Consider the applications you use frequently. Whether it’s a retail, dining or hotel application, you need to go through a series of steps. For example, you might need to make a reservation or place an order, you might want to check the status of your order after you submitted it or you might want to access a map or review feature. These actions all require the use of APIs to communicate with each other.

Whenever Salesforce is used, APIs are being engaged. You can thank API-enabled data and metadata for the flexibility and creative solutions Salesforce offers. Salesforce’s cloud application architecture can be supported by APIs such as standard HTTP SOAP (simple object access protocol) and REST (representational state transfer). Additionally, Salesforce1 is the platform that allows you to develop applications and exchange data via Salesforce APIs.

Enterprise Ecosystem

Many partners contribute to the creation and maintenance of the Salesforce enterprise ecosystem. Salesforce users can search for partner programs to complement their business operations. For example, one part of the ecosystem is AppExchange, which offers more than 2,700 ready-to-install applications that integrate easily with Salesforce. 

Complete CRM

The Salesforce CRM stores contact and activity information on prospects and clients and provides real-time analytics. The platform can monitor contact emails, telephone calls, website visits and more. All of this information provides insights into marketing techniques that could prove most valuable in reaching a contact. 

Additionally, the Salesforce CRM connects users within an organization. They can monitor data specific to prospects, opportunities, closed sales, revenue and more. Features such as Chatter provide a layer of internal knowledge sharing and collaboration, allowing employees to post comments or questions to one or more specific individuals and viewable by all users. 

According to Salesforce, companies using their CRM see a 34% average increase in customer satisfaction, a 32% increase in lead conversion and a 27% jump in sales.

Clouds Within Salesforce

Salesforce has various clouds and applications designed to track sales, monitor performance, analyze data, connect with customers and more. 

Sales Cloud

Sales Cloud houses client information and boasts features specific to sales, lead generation and marketing, whether your focus is business-to-business or business-to-consumer. The system allows you to clearly see what’s in your pipeline and what actions have been taken with each prospect.

Marketing Cloud

Use Salesforce’s digital marketing platform to manage your content, social media, mobile, email efforts and more. Also benefit from personalization features, buyer journey management and comprehensive data analytics.

Service Cloud

This product is specific to customer service and support teams and allows agents to easily track customer cases. In addition to live 1-on-1 support, clients can take advantage of chatbots, customer self-service portals and real-time social media interactions. 

Community Cloud

Build personalized sites and forums with pre-built templates tailored for specific use cases and pre-built themes (or customize your own). You can build your content, create personalized portals for your clients or self-service communities where customers can help each other. CRM-powered components and apps can be installed, too.

Analytics Cloud

Salesforce Analytics Cloud allows users to get custom analytics apps and is easily integrated with other Salesforce clouds. Users can review data from internal and external sources, identify trends and key performance indicators, generate reports, view recommended actions and more.

App Cloud

Make custom applications for your Salesforce platform using a collection of development tools for website development, development testing and more. Choose from, Heroku, Salesforce Thunder or Salesforce Sandbox, among others. AppExchange also is part of the app cloud and specific to third-party applications that run on the platform.

Commerce Cloud

Commerce Cloud allows users to create consistent shopping and client experiences across all commerce points, from in-store to online. Personalize the customer experience, manage orders and service customers while staying up to date on business performance in real time. 

Internet of Things Cloud

When you hear the phrase Internet of Things (IoT), think of everything that’s connected to the web – smart devices, apps, websites, internet-enabled sensors and more – including all of the data that flows through it. A Salesforce IoT cloud combines data processing and analytics. It gathers online information from customers and partners and provides real-time interactions and personalized user engagement.

Salesforce Architecture Diagram

Salesforce architecture layers one component atop of another:

  • Multitenant cloud environment
  • Scalable metadata platform
  • Enterprise ecosystem
  • CRM
  • Cloud products
  • Apps
Salesforce architecture diagram layering the multitenant cloud, scalable platform, enterprise ecosystem and cloud services.

Salesforce Architecture: Use Cases by Industry

Organizations across sectors employ Salesforce architecture — from government, financial services, manufacturing, technology, health care and communications. Here are a couple of use case examples.

Use Case 1

Intuit, the parent business of QuickBooks, TurboTax and Quicken, had 9 CRMs across the company. It decided to streamline and organize operations and turned to Salesforce Service to better understand its customers. Agents using the platform can see what products customers have reviewed and co-browse with them to provide the most optimal level of assistance. 

Use Case 2

With the Salesforce Analytics Cloud, GE Capital has shortened the time it takes to gain insights into enterprise and customer data. Thanks to mobile responsiveness, agents are able to view analytics on the go, make comments and edit reporting capabilities. The company has been able to integrate various technologies and channels in the cloud. Additionally, using Marketing Cloud, GE Capital is able to maintain customer connections with targeted communications.

Salesforce Tutorial: How to Create an App

An application is a collection of tabs and objects. While Salesforce comes with preset applications, you could create your own or install some through Salesforce AppExchange. 

To create an app in Salesforce using Salesforce Admin or Developer, turn to the customization links in the left-hand column. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, enter your search term in the Quick Find or global Salesforce Search bar. You also can view your existing apps by clicking the top far right-hand drop-down menu. 

  • To create an app, go to the Build feature in the left-hand column and click Create and then click on Apps.
Salesforce column with option to Create Apps.
Apps section of Salesforce, explaining what apps are and what apps are in the system.
  • Then click Quick Start. You will need to name your app as well as provide a label and plural label (which will be the name that will show in the main horizontal tab) for the main type of data you need to track. This will be your object. You will see a preview. Click Create.
App Quick Start feature in Salesforce prompts users to name the app and indicate the type of data to track.
  • Once ready, a box will appear. Click Go to My App. You will see the app listed on the top right-hand drop-down will show the name of the app you just created. 
Screen showing the newly created Salesforce app is up and running.
  • You will be taken to another screen, where you will click on New. Populate the entry field with an object name. Click Save. 
Salesforce screen prompting users to click on New to populate the field with an object name.
Salesforce screen where object name has been populated.

If you would like to change any preset standard object or functionality, you’ll need to use the Customize feature in the left-hand column instead.

How Does Enterprise Web Application Architecture Compare?

Salesforce shares some similarities with enterprise web application architecture, which brings together a series of back-end interactions between a server, browser and user interface so that a user can load a webpage. 

With enterprise web application architecture, a server-side code responds to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) request and a client-side code responds to the user’s input. Collected data from the user is sent as a request to the backend, which sends a response to the front-end that is displayed as a result for the user.

There are several different types of enterprise web application architecture: single-page applications, microservices and serverless architecture. 

  • Single-page applications load the entire webpage only once, individually reloading data for other aspects of the page as a user clicks on those elements. 
  • Microservice architecture refers to developing an application via several small services, the components of which aren’t dependent on each other and can be developed with different technologies, making for fast and easy development. 
  • With serverless architecture, application codes can be carried out more easily thanks to a third-party cloud infrastructure management.

Building Your Company With Salesforce Architecture

It’s no surprise that Salesforce has been ranked a top CRM platform, surpassing SAP, Oracle and Microsoft in terms of market share. More than 150,000 companies worldwide use the software, including Automatic Data Processing (ADP), American Express, CareerBuilder and Ticketmaster. 

Today, businesses looking for a robust CRM can turn to the cloud-based Salesforce architecture, which touts simplicity, speed, efficiency, security and scalability.


Erin Ryan

A prolific and versatile wordsmith, Erin crafts persuasive copy that entices and converts. Her repertoire includes SEO-optimized content, including blog posts, guides, content refreshes and website copy, as well as marketing emails, video scripts and landing pages, to name a few. In her free time, Erin enjoys gardening, yoga and riding around on her rusty but reliable beach cruiser, "Old Faithful."

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