From the beginning the Salesforce architecture and technology approach for large scale cloud applications has been different compared to other vendors such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and many others.
It may be the difference between people that started in the Enterprise Software world (e.g. Oracle ERP) vs. people that started from the consumer land (e.g. search). It may be the different characteristics of the applications. I am not really sure.
Back in 2010 in the Dreamforce event Salesforce announced that they are running just 1,500 servers for their main Salesforce application. These machines were a combination of relatively strong Dell Machines and less highlighted also a set of strong Solaris machines. Their database was mainly Oracle database. The use of Solaris and Oracle Database was less highlighted from obvious relationship issues between Salesforce and Oracle.
At the same time, vendors such as Google, were already running hundreds of thousands of special built relatively small servers all acting as one and delivering the Google services such as the Google Apps. Very different approach for the architecture, technology and operation.
Fast forward to August 2013 we got another glimpse into the Salesforce architecture and how it is changing over the years in a lecture from Claude Johnson, a Lead Site Reliability Engineer at Salesforce. See the highlights here. There are many interesting parts to that talk, including how they are gradually migrating out of Solaris and how they are still shy about their reliance on Oracle database.
Back to our discussion, they also provided interesting statistics true for August 2013:
- 23 production instances (17 North America instances, 4 EMEA instances and 2 APAC instances)
- 20 sandbox instances
- 15,000+ hardware systems
Today, as of March 2015 we can see in the Salesforce System status page the count of instances:
- 32 production instances (24 NA, 5 EMEA and 3 APAC)
- 32 sandbox instances
Assuming each production instance has twice as much resources as a sandbox instance and assuming the foundation of the architecture is more or less the same, we can extrapolate that today, March 2015, the main Salesforce application is running somewhere in the range of 22,000 servers.
Looking forward to hear your opinion on this estimate.