by Rob Barry
When it comes to development on the Force.com Platform as a Service (PaaS), few are more knowledgeable than Jason Ouellette, author of the new book, Development with the Force.com Platform: Building Business Applications in the Cloud.
Chief architect at Force.com ISV Appirio, Ouellette developed the Force.com PaaS application Appirio Calendar Sync, among others. His new book is a developer's guide to the free Force.com Developer Edition that doesn't spend much time defining "The Cloud."
SearchSOA recently spoke to Ouellette about his book, which was written for developers of Java, C#, .NET PHP and other high-level languages.
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Force.com uses a logical database without the same physical access some might be used to with MySQL. Instead of the traditional entity relationship modeling, the Force.com database uses logical data entities that are reused across an entire project.
Database security on the platform service is put in terms of rules and user hierarchies. The hierarchies are mapped onto database objects so that the rules can be applied to the entities and their fields and records. Ouellette said managing all of this is done through a drag-and-drop interface.
The Force.com PaaS executes the strongly-typed programming language Apex. Ouellette said learning this language is not difficult for those already accustomed to languages like Java and C#. The language uses similar syntax but approaches architectural elements, object-oriented programming and database access a bit differently.
In Apex, Ouellette said, the compiler holds the developers hand a bit and does not allow much invalid code to be written. While this might not resonate well with developers who enjoy loosely-typed, unstructured languages, he said it tends to make business logic easier to create.
Ouellette said he started working with Force.com integrating the platform with external applications. He said the platform's API is well put together and anyone familiar with standards like REST and web services will not have little trouble using it.
Overall, development on Force.com is approached from a higher level than that for typical Java and C# applications. As a general tip, Ouellette recommends that beginners come up with a new data model rather than porting one over from an existing application and then start with as few objects as are necessary. Overly complex data models can rob a developer of many of the features of Force.com.