Over the last 5 years, DevOps has increasingly become the standard for Salesforce development and release management. From December 2022, the General Availability (GA) of Salesforce’s DevOps Center marks a move away from the burdens of change sets and brings Salesforce development more in line with the practices used on other platforms. If you’re wondering what it includes and what’s possible, we have you covered — here’s everything you need to know about DevOps Center!
What is DevOps Center?
DevOps Center sits within the Salesforce UI and is a new change and release management tool. It’s designed to take some of the DevOps workflows that are familiar to programmatic developers and make them available to teams of admins and declarative developers — a significant upgrade from change sets. The aim is a ‘democratization of DevOps’, empowering all team members to get involved in the release process, enabling collaboration, and encouraging a greater return on the investment in Salesforce. Though DevOps Center only reached GA in late 2022, Salesforce’s plans for the platform have long been clear.
How can I access DevOps Center?
DevOps Center is currently free for those with Salesforce Professional, Enterprise or Unlimited Editions, and is also available for Developer Edition orgs. You can also try it out in a Trailhead Playground or Scratch org, but DevOps Center isn’t currently available to install in a sandbox. There are future plans to introduce a tiered payment system, but we don’t know what that will look like yet.
If you have an eligible Salesforce edition, you can access DevOps Center through Setup. DevOps Center comes as a Managed Package that needs to be installed into a production org and can then be connected to any Lightning-enabled or classic org.
What does DevOps Center include?
As Salesforce has only just released DevOps Center GA, some functionality is still in the works. Here’s a run-down of everything currently available in DevOps Center, with some pointers to what we can expect in future releases.
A single UI for click-based releases
Salesforce has continued its emphasis on ‘clicks not code’ with DevOps Center, which is UI-driven and available within the Salesforce platform. The interface should allow all Salesforce users to dive into DevOps regardless of their experience, making it easier for devs and admins to work together on their release pipelines. This is more than just a quality-of-life improvement — teams who have already achieved this collaboration using third-party DevOps platforms have seen a dramatic improvement in the speed and stability of their releases.
DevOps Center may also give team members greater control over their releases than is possible with change sets. Your metadata changes are grouped into ‘work items’, which you then push from your dev org all the way to production. You can promote work items individually or as versioned ‘bundles’ of changes. Current change set users will be glad to hear that you’ll no longer need to recreate your package from scratch every time you move between orgs!
The main value of DevOps Center is in enabling teams to track their changes by following a source-driven process, all within Salesforce’s UI.
By providing a Git-based workflow, DevOps Center will allow Salesforce teams to reap the benefits of version control: seeing the full history of code changes made across the team, avoiding overwritten code, and collaborating more effectively.
The initial release of DevOps Center sits on top of a set branching strategy: changes move through a series of Git branches for development, review, testing, and production, each with an associated org. The number of environments is configurable. At GA DevOps Center only supports GitHub but Karen Fidelak, Senior Director of Product Management at Salesforce, has confirmed that support for other version control systems, like BitBucket and GitLab, will follow later.
What doesn’t DevOps Center have?
Salesforce is aware that DevOps Center can’t support teams in every aspect of the DevOps process, so plan to integrate with third-party solutions. DevOps Center doesn’t include the following at GA.
Most Git providers not supported
In future releases, there are plans to support other Git providers, alongside GitHub, and enable customizable Git-branching strategies. Teams using GitLab, Bitbucket, or Azure DevOps will have to wait for those integrations.
No work tracking integrations
Salesforce intends to add support for third-party ticketing systems, like JIRA. As a result, teams can only track work items in DevOps Center, rather than integrating with third-party tools for tracking project delivery. The current roadmap has no mention of support for other ticketing systems, like Rally.
No native automation tools for CI/CD
One of the most significant gaps in DevOps Center is the absence of automation tools that will let you set up and manage a CI/CD process. Adopting version control is a significant step for Salesforce teams wanting to implement DevOps, but automating tests and deployment steps in the release pipeline is essential for DevOps maturity and continuous delivery — as our CI/CD ebook explains.
No metadata comparisons
Karen Fidelak has described metadata comparisons between environments as a huge strength of Gearset — and of course we agree! Gearset’s comparison engine underpins our problem analyzers, which hugely increase users’ deployment success rates.
Salesforce initially had no plans to build a comparison engine for DevOps Center and currently relies on Git and GitHub to track changes and provide merge capabilities. Based on the ecosystem’s expectation for a DevOps solution to display metadata differences between environments, Salesforce are now considering adding this capability to their DevOps Center roadmap.
Limited backup and rollback
DevOps Center lacks a tight integration with full data and metadata backups, which protect your org from the possibility of a release that causes chaos. There’s no rollback functionality either, so some key guardrails for making releases secure are missing.
Not yet available for package-based development models
DevOps Center doesn’t support some of the ways of working that Salesforce encouraged after releasing Salesforce DX. There are future plans to support package-based development models, which will allow for package installations to be incorporated into the release process.
What should we expect in future releases
Salesforce has released their Public Roadmap for DevOps Center, which gives some indication of current planning for future releases. With this, there’s no guarantee if and when each feature may become available.
Comprehensive support for error messages
As DevOps Center is still in it’s early stages, Salesforce and the community haven’t yet offered the wealth of documentation that you can find for other snags in Salesforce development. This means it can be hard to find the solution to a problem when you do run into a DevOps Center error message. As users become more experienced with DevOps Center, there should be greater coverage of error messages via Salesforce Help pages and community forums, like Trailhead.
Is DevOps Center right for you?
DevOps is a journey, not a destination — teams move through stages of DevOps maturity as they improve their processes and see higher levels of growth. Each team will have differing setups, deployments, and processes, so will need different features from a DevOps solution. When planning which solution to use for your team, a good start is to assess your team’s current level of DevOps maturity.
Full DevOps maturity, with an automated release pipeline and backup solution, isn’t yet possible with DevOps Center. Gearset’s DevOps platform has been developed over years to meet the needs of Salesforce teams adopting and scaling DevOps processes, so you can get the most out of Salesforce for your business. If your team is keen to begin with Salesforce DevOps, but isn’t sure where to start, chat to one of our DevOps experts about your current challenges and Salesforce ambitions.