Salesforce BigObjects

What is a BigObject?

Two years ago I started working with Big Objects, a Salesforce pilot that looked very interesting for me. And now that it seems that General Available time is closer, I would like to write about them.

Please, take into account that a Salesforce pilot could be discarded like Data Pipeline that it would not be GA at the end.

Big Objects is a new type of objects that Salesforce provides. Maybe the most important thing I can tell is that they do not count against the storage limit. Well, you could say that External Objects already do.

You can learn more about External Objects here.

Yes, you are right. But this time, data lives in your organisation instead of in an external storage and this means that you can work with them like with Custom / Standard objects, but if you go to Salesforce Storage screen, you would not find them.

Big Objects let you store and manage large amounts of data.

Use Case

But before starting with the explanation, let’s talk about the Use Case.

As a company that creates software, we have stories in order to develop new functionality. Before delivering them, we need to pass a code review, so that, we ensure the best to our end users.

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But how much storage should I use to keep code review records in our Production org? Should I remove them? If so, what about auditing?

BigObjects is your solution, so that, you can move old records to a new Code Review History BigObject record. Let’s focus for now on this new History object.

How to Create a BigObject?

Unfortunately you cannot do it in a declarative way. You need to define them via Metadata API and then do a deployment via cmd or workbench.

Before doing it, take into account:

  1. Indexes are required and in order to include them, you need to be on API 39.0 onwards.
  2. Once you deploy one, you cannot make any modification like amend a field type, change label, etc. However in a declarative way you can do small changes like the label and API name.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<CustomObject xmlns="http://soap.sforce.com/2006/04/metadata">
  <deploymentStatus>Deployed</deploymentStatus>
  <fields>
    <fullName>CanBeMerged__c</fullName>
      <label>Can Be Merged</label>
      <length>80</length>
      <type>Text</type>
    </fields> 
  <fields>
  <fullName>CodeReviewDate__c</fullName>
    <label>Code Review Date</label>
    <type>DateTime</type>
    <required>true</required>
  </fields>
  <fields>
    <fullName>Comments__c</fullName>
    <label>Comments</label>
    <length>255</length>
    <type>Text</type>
  </fields>
  <fields>
    <fullName>Employee__c</fullName>
    <label>Employee</label>
    <referenceTo>Employee__c</referenceTo>
    <relationshipName>Employees</relationshipName>
    <required>true</required>
    <type>Lookup</type>
  </fields>
  <fields>
    <fullName>Score__c</fullName>
    <label>Score</label>
    <precision>1</precision>
    <scale>0</scale>
    <type>Number</type>
  </fields>
  <fields>
    <fullName>Story__c</fullName>
    <label>Story__c</label>
    <referenceTo>Story__c</referenceTo>
    <relationshipName>Stories</relationshipName>
    <required>true</required>
    <type>Lookup</type>
  </fields>
  <indexes>
    <type>PRIMARY</type> 
    <fullName>Test1CodeReviewPK</fullName>
    <fields>
      <name>Story__c</name>
      <sortDirection>DESC</sortDirection> 
    </fields>
    <fields>
      <name>Employee__c</name>
      <sortDirection>DESC</sortDirection>
    </fields>
    <fields>
      <name>CodeReviewDate__c</name>
      <sortDirection>DESC</sortDirection>
    </fields>
  </indexes>
  <label>Test1 Code Review History</label>
  <pluralLabel>Test1 Code Reviews History</pluralLabel>
</CustomObject>

Once you deploy it into your organization, you would find something like this under BigObject entry:

I decided to name is as Test1 Code Review History because once it is created I cannot modify it, and I didn’t want to use Code Review History label for now.

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What can we highlight?

  1. The API name ends with __b instead of __c or __x like custom and external objects.
  2. We will not find Standard fields.
  3. We can create as many custom fields as we want but right now it only supports these field types: DateTime, Lookup, Number, Text and Long TextArea. What about the rest? Try to be creative. For instance a Checkbox can be converted into number or text.
  4. You will not find any other section like PageLayout or Buttons for now.
  5. You will not find Triggers section. It is not allowed for now.
  6. You will not be allowed to create a custom tab related to this object. That is related to previous point and the PageLayout. To visualise Big Object records, you need to create a visualforce page or a lightning component.
  7. You can determine its CRUD and FLS via Profile or Permission Sets during the deploy process or in a declarative way. However for now BigObjects can be only created and read.

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How Can I Create Records?

There are different ways to create BigObject record, like using a csv file, use APIs like Bulk API or even Async SOQL, another Pilot I will talk about in a future entry.

In any case, here, I will focus on Apex.

As I mentioned above, you can only Read or Create records, and nowadays, you cannot use simple DML operations, there is a new one: database.insertImmediate(record)

Test1CodeReview__b cr = new Test1CodeReview__b();
cr.CanBeMerged__c = 'False';
cr.CodeReviewDate__c = System.today();
cr.Comments__c = 'I found a SOQL inside of a loop.';
cr.Employee__c = 'a6j24000000fxSL';
cr.Score__c = 0; 
cr.Story__c = 'a6k24000000k9bN';
database.insertImmediate(cr);

But something pretty cool that it was not available at the beginning, it is the fact we can use this method, to also update records. Actually it works like upsert. If I make a call where the record has a primary key that doesn’t exist, it would create a new record as we can see in the below image.

Captura de pantalla 2017-07-14 a las 14.28.04

However if the value already is in the platform, it will make a modification.

Test1CodeReview__b cr = new Test1CodeReview__b();
cr.CanBeMerged__c = 'False';
cr.CodeReviewDate__c = System.today();
cr.Comments__c = 'I found a SOQL inside of a loop.';
cr.Employee__c = 'a6j24000000fxSL';
cr.Score__c = 1; //Change to 1
cr.Story__c = 'a6k24000000k9bN';
database.insertImmediate(cr);

Captura de pantalla 2017-07-14 a las 14.35.49

If I come back to the original use case, I would like to move CodeReview__c records to Test1CodeReviewHistory__b records. In order to do that I only need to retrieve the record I need and create a new BigObject entry.

CodeReview__c cr = [Select Id, CanBeMerged__c, 
                           CodeReviewDate__c, Comments__c, 
                           Employee__c, Score__c, Story__c 
                    From CodeReview__c 
                    Limit 1];

String canBeMerged = cr.CanBeMerged__c == true ? 'True' : 'False';

Test1CodeReview__b crh = new Test1CodeReview__b();
crh.CanBeMerged__c = canBeMerged;
crh.CodeReviewDate__c = cr.CodeReviewDate__c;
crh.Comments__c = cr.Comments__c;
crh.Employee__c = cr.Employee__c;
crh.Score__c = cr.Score__c; 
crh.Story__c = cr.Story__c;
database.insertImmediate(crh);

How Can I Visualise Records?

As we have already mentioned, we cannot create a custom tab related to a BigObject and show all records. However we can query BigObjects, so what about if we create a custom page for that?

First of all we would need a controller. Really simple one. We have a method to retrieve all records and a get and set to show in a list what we retrieve.

public with sharing class CodeReviewController
{
   private static List<Test1CodeReview__b> codeReviewHistoryList; 
   
   public CodeReviewController()
   {
      setCodeReviewHistoryList(calculateCodeReviewHistoryList());
   } 

   public List<Test1CodeReview__b> calculateCodeReviewHistoryList()
   {
      return [SELECT Id, CanBeMerged__c, CodeReviewDate__c, 
                     Comments__c, Employee__c, Score__c, 
                     Story__c                
               FROM Test1CodeReview__b];
   }

   public static List<Test1CodeReview__b> getCodeReviewHistoryList()
   {
      return codeReviewHistoryList;
   }

   public static void setCodeReviewHistoryList(List<Test1CodeReview__b> value)
   {
      codeReviewHistoryList = value;
   }
}

Secondly, we have the visualforce page. Something to highlight is that right now, the standardController attribute doesn’t work, so we can only create a page with a customController. 

<apex:page showHeader="true" sidebar="true" controller="CodeReviewController">
   <apex:form>
      <apex:pageBlock title="Code Review History Records">
         <apex:pageBlockSection title="Code Review History" columns="1" collapsible="false">
	    <apex:pageBlockTable value="{!codeReviewHistoryList}" var="crHistory">
               <apex:column headerValue="Ready To Merge?">
	          <apex:outputField value="{!crHistory.CanBeMerged__c}"/>
               </apex:column>
	       <apex:column headerValue="Score">
	          <apex:outputField value="{!crHistory.Score__c}"/>
	       </apex:column>
               <apex:column headerValue="Comments">
	          <apex:outputField value="{!crHistory.Comments__c}"/>
               </apex:column>
               <apex:column headerValue="Story">
	          <apex:outputField value="{!crHistory.Story__c}"/>
               </apex:column>
               <apex:column headerValue="Reviewer">
                  <apex:outputField value="{!crHistory.Employee__c}"/>
               </apex:column>
               <apex:column headerValue="Code Review Date">
                  <apex:outputField value="{!crHistory.CodeReviewDate__c}"/>
               </apex:column>
            </apex:pageBlockTable>
         </apex:pageBlockSection>
      </apex:pageBlock>
   </apex:form>
</apex:page>

And the result is this one that includes the record created from scratch and the one that is retrieved from CodeReview__c object.

Captura de pantalla 2017-07-17 a las 9.14.52

Summary

I would like to share this table that summarise BigObjects and compare with Custom Objects. But before, I would like to also highlight that this new object type can be included in a package. You would find under CustomObject section:

Captura de pantalla 2017-07-17 a las 9.16.06

Summary Table:

Feature Custom Object Big Object
Creation Manual
Metadata
Metadata
API name myObject__c myObject__b
Track Activities
Track Field History, etc.
Options Available Options No Available
Field Types All Text ; Date/Time ; Lookup
Number ; Long Text Area
Able to edit fields Yes Yes (with restrictions)
Able to delete fields Yes No
Triggers; Field Sets; etc Options Available Options No Available
Reports Yes No
How to Populate records All CSV file
API (Bulk, SOAP)
Apex
Async SOQL
Can I amend a record? Yes Yes (with restrictions)
Can I see data creating a Tab Yes No
For free? Yes No — Talk with Salesforce
Storage It count against storage It doesn’t count against storage

London’s Calling ’17 and Visual Flow

Last 10th of February, I attended London’s Calling ’17 and I can say it was a great and funny day.

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And obviously, we had lot of opportunities to learn more about Salesforce. Actually I had the chance to run a session about Visual Flow where I got nice questions that I promised to review and answer, and here is the time for it:

1. Did you find any issue related to Communities?

When I created a new Community in my org and tried to add elements, I was not able to find the Flow Lightning Component that allows me to include visualflows in Lightning Experience. However, I can add visualforce pages, so if you have your flow embebed in a visualforce page and you set this page up to be used in Communities, then, it seems you can see your flow in the Community.

2. Did you find any issue during deployment?

Although my daily job tasks do not include deploying flows, I could say that those times that I tried I did not get any special issue to highlight. We just need to keep in mind few things, like also include those objects that flow references but this is like some other components. In addition, although in your org you have several versions, in change set you can only include the latest active one. And as I said in the session, in order to include a flow in package, it should be active, otherwise, it will not appear as an element to be included. You can find more information here.

3. What is coming in Spring ’17 release?

I talked about some Spring’17 features, but I also promised to review, the new FLS feature. But let start checking the behaviour if I do not have access to the object itself.

So having a user which profile only allows to Read and View All reservations:

Captura de pantalla 2017-03-12 a las 11.11.03.png

if I try to run the BookingSystem application, by the time I try to save the Reservation, I get an unhandled error (that’s why Salesforce encourage to cover these in the same way we do in apex) And the administrator receives an email with the log and the error:

Captura de pantalla 2017-03-12 a las 11.14.24Captura de pantalla 2017-03-12 a las 11.15.04

Let’s double check new FLS for Flow in Spring’17

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In this scenario, I have Filter Inaccessible Fields from Flow Request enabled in Process Automation Settings, and also, I have defined a Field Level Security of No Visible for Facility Price in my custom profile

Captura de pantalla 2017-03-12 a las 11.28.42.png

So, having this configuration, I have created also this flow in order to insert a new Facility via a Fast Create screen

Captura de pantalla 2017-03-12 a las 19.01.51.png

So in order to do that, I create a SObject and I use the input fields from the first screen in order to make an assignment to the SObject fields and finally pass the SObject to the Fast Create

Now, if I run the flow with the profile that doesn’t have price visibility, I can create a new record, but having an empty price.

Captura de pantalla 2017-03-12 a las 19.11.19.png

However, if I disable Filter Inaccessible Fields from Flow Request enabled in Process Automation Settings, and run the flow again, the result is different. The record is not half created and the administrator receives and email with the error.

So now, what should I do? Up to you really. You can handle the exception and provide a nice error message and don’t allow the end user to create a Facility record without the prices. However, if the field is not required for the business, you can leave this half creation.

Any other question about Visual Flow? Leave it as a comment and I will try to check it and reply you.

 

 

Lightning Experience and Visual Flow

Today I’m going to do some researches with one of these #clicksnotcode features that Salesforce provides in the Platform, Visual Flow. Ok, this is not a hot topic now, but if we want to check how it works in Lightning Experience (LEX from now onwards) then, this post could be a bit more interesting for you.

Take into account that Visual Flow in LEX is in beta

The use case it’s simple. I have a Hotel, and I would like to get some feedback from my guests, so I will send them a survey.

The Flow would be very simple, and as the creation is not the main goal here, I will not show it step by step. But if you are new, double check Visual Flow documentation and also TrailHead.

First of all we need to open Flow Designer, so, can I do it in LEX? Yes. Go to Setup and just write “flow” in order to find it and be able to open this platform feature.

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As you can see on below image, the Flow Designer looks like the Classic UI one, so you would not need to learn how to work with it if you already used it.

captura-de-pantalla-2016-12-02-a-las-12-08-29

Once I have created my Flow, we can add it to our Home page, but remember to Activate it, otherwise it would not be available in Lightning App Builder.

So, go to Home, Edit this page, and Lightning App Builder will help you to add it there.

How? Really simple, if you go to Standard Apps, one of them is Flow (beta) so you only need to click on it, and your flow will appear in the home page.

captura-de-pantalla-2016-12-02-a-las-10-57-11

But actually I have 2 active flows, so what can I do? When you highlight your custom Flow, on the right side you have the option to select the one you need to show, so just pick one.

captura-de-pantalla-2016-12-02-a-las-11-12-38

I can also say that I had to try a couple of times till I got this behavior. First time, Book Room flow did not appear on the drop down list, so there were not way to add it to my Home page. But remember, this feature is on beta, so be patience and try till you get it.

Last thing to mention is the fact that you can chose between 1 or 2 columns. My first thought was that this attribute would help me to determine if I wanted 2 flows on the same row on the page layout, but it is not related to that. It just help you to set all your flow fields in 2 columns instead of one. For instance, these 2 screens show same fields but they are sorted in a different way.

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And how it works? In Spanish we say better a image rather than thousand words but in this case, better a video rather than thousand images.

 

Maybe your last question is if we can add it to any other place? Yes, for instance, I can include it in my Guest record layout

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But let’s make up a little bit and define something for every guest:

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In order to do that, I had to add a Lookup step in the Flow and use the variable {!recordId} as a filter. So that, I can retrieve Guest object record and use it in my Flow.

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It was not easy to find the way to retrieve the recordId but this post helped me a lot.

I hope you liked this short entry about Flow. You can find more information on Salesforce release notes entry.