Salesforce to Grafana

This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Salesforce and analyze it in Grafana. (If the mechanics of extracting data from Salesforce seem too complex or difficult to maintain, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)

What is Salesforce?

Salesforce, a cloud-based software-as-a-service platform, is the most popular CRM application in use today. Salesforce is amazingly customizable, has tons of integration functionality, and includes almost too many bells and whistles to count. Companies can use it to do everything from managing account planning to time management and team collaboration.

What is Grafana?

Grafana is an open source platform for time series analytics. It can run on-premises on all major operating systems or be hosted by Grafana Labs via GrafanaCloud. Grafana allows users to create, explore, and share dashboards to query, visualize, and alert on data.

Getting data out of Salesforce

Step one is to get all of that data out of Salesforce. Salesforce provides many APIs for its products that can deliver data on accounts, leads, tasks, and more. You can find a list of APIs on one of the company's helpdesk posts with some direction on when and how to use each API. By looking through that post, you can get an idea of which API makes the most sense for your use case.

For our purposes, we'll use the REST API with SOQL (Salesforce Object Query Language), but the same data is available using other protocols, including streaming for real-time receipt of data.

Sample Salesforce data

The Salesforce Rest API can return JSON- or XML-formatted data depending on your preference. Here's what a sample response might look like in JSON format:

{
    "done" : true,
    "totalSize" : 14,
    "records" : 
    [ 
        {  
            "attributes" : 
            {    
                "type" : "Account",    
                "url" : "/services/data/v20.0/sobjects/Account/001D000000IRFmaIAH"  
            },  
            "Name" : "Test 1"
        }, 
        {  
            "attributes" : 
            {    
                "type" : "Account",    
                "url" : "/services/data/v20.0/sobjects/Account/001D000000IomazIAB"  
            },  
            "Name" : "Test 2"
        }, 

        ...

    ]
}

Loading data into Grafana

Analyzing data in Grafana requires putting it into a format that Grafana can read. Grafana natively supports nine data sources, and offers plugins that provide access to more than 50 more. Generally, it's a good idea to move all your data into a data warehouse for analysis. MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, and PostgreSQL are among the supported data sources, and because Amazon Redshift is built on PostgreSQL and Panoply is built on Redshift, those popular data warehouses are also supported. However, Snowflake and Google BigQuery are not currently supported.

Analyzing data in Grafana

Grafana provides a getting started guide that walks new users through the process of creating panels and dashboards. Panel data is powered by queries you build in Grafana's Query Editor. You can create graphs with as many metrics and series as you want. You can use variable strings within panel configuration to create template dashboards. Time ranges generally apply to an entire dashboard, but you can override them for individual panels.

Keeping Salesforce data up to date

At this point you've coded up a script or written a program to get the data you want and successfully moved it into your data warehouse. But how will you load new or updated data? It's not a good idea to replicate all of your data each time you have updated records. That process would be painfully slow and resource-intensive.

Instead, identify key fields that your script can use to bookmark its progression through the data and use to pick up where it left off as it looks for updated data. Auto-incrementing fields such as updated_at or created_at work best for this. When you've built in this functionality, you can set up your script as a cron job or continuous loop to get new data as it appears in Salesforce.

And remember, as with any code, once you write it, you have to maintain it. If Salesforce modifies its API, or the API sends a field with a datatype your code doesn't recognize, you may have to modify the script. If your users want slightly different information, you definitely will have to.

From Salesforce to your data warehouse: An easier solution

As mentioned earlier, the best practice for analyzing Salesforce data in Grafana is to store that data inside a data warehousing platform alongside data from your other databases and third-party sources. You can find instructions for doing these extractions for leading warehouses on our sister sites Salesforce to Redshift, Salesforce to BigQuery, and Salesforce to Snowflake.

Easier yet, however, is using a solution that does all that work for you. Products like Stitch were built to solve this problem automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Salesforce data via the API, structuring it in a way that is optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into a data warehouse that can be easily accessed and analyzed by Grafana.