Developer Tips Migration Tool: Mastering Salesforce Deployments

Understand the Migration Tool's role in efficient Salesforce deployments. Learn about its limitations and see how it compares to Blue Canvas.

Last Update:
May 29, 2023
March 1, 2017

This article walks you through the Migration Tool, an essential utility for Salesforce developers aimed at automating deployment schedules. You'll discover its functions, installation process, comparison with Eclipse, as well as its limitations. You'll also discover other purpose-built solutions for Salesforce deployment, that can help as more cost-effective and user-friendly alternatives. You'll ultimately gain a comprehensive understanding of these tools, how they operate, and how they can streamline your Salesforce deployment process.

Here are our 5 key takeaways:

  • The migration tool is a Java/Ant-based utility designed to automate Salesforce deployments.
  • It assists in migrating Apex and configuration changes between Orgs via interaction with the Salesforce metadata API.
  • Despite its usefulness, the tool has limitations such as inability to deploy all metadata types and the potential to unintentionally overwrite other developers' code.
  • Dedicated deployment solutions offer more streamlined processes with fewer setup and maintenance requirements compared to the migration tool.
  • Utilizing solutions that integrate source control with CI systems can prevent code overwriting and provide a more efficient deployment process.

Table of Contents

One of the primary options for Salesforce deployments today is the migration tool, also known as the Ant Migration tool and simply the Salesforce migration tool. The confusion around the name is actually fitting given the confusion around the tool itself. What is the migration tool? What does it do? And can it help me?

The Migration Tool: Overview & Functionality

The migration tool is an alternative to the two other primary Salesforce deployment strategies today: change sets and manually making changes.

Salesforce developers typically turn to the migration tool when they are looking to create a more automated deployment schedule. Change sets, though useful, can be slow and manual. Even slower is actually logging into a production instance and making changes manually.

Many teams are trying to set up a more modern Salesforce deployment schedule. This includes using a Salesforce sandbox strategy that involves making changes in developer sandboxes, migrating them to a staging sandbox for testing and then promoting to production.

The migration tool can help make deployments between environments slightly smoother.

How it works?

The migration tool is a Java/Ant based command line utility that let’s Salesforce developers access the Salesforce metadata API indirectly to move Apex and configuration changes between Orgs.

The Salesforce metadata API is a SOAP API that allows you to push and retrieve some metadata types (see below). Of course, there has been a general movement in software development towards RESTful APIs and most developers no longer particularly enjoy working with SOAP APIs. The migration tool allows you to interact with the metadata API from the command line without having to dig into SOAP scripts.

What is the Salesforce Ant migration tool?

You will often hear the migration tool referred to as the Salesforce Ant migration tool or simply as “Ant scripts”. What is Ant? And are these really the same thing?

Ant is a Java based build tool from Apache. It is independent of Salesforce and can be used to create build steps. Developers familiar with Make files will see some similarities between Ant and Make. Ant was developed to handle some of the existing challenges associated with Unix deploys.

Because Salesforce and Apex are heavily influenced by Java, the migration tool leverages Ant in order to do builds and deployments on the Salesforce platform. So the Ant and migration tools are the same thing, just known by different names.

How to Install the Migration Tool

  1. Verify the installation prerequisites:
  • Ensure that Java is installed on your computer. Salesforce recommends using Java 1.7.x or later for security reasons.
  • Check if Apache Ant version 1.6 or later is installed. Salesforce recommends using Apache Ant for working with the migration tool.

  1. Install Java if needed:
  • If Java is not already installed on your computer, download and install the recommended version (1.7.x or later) from the official Java website.
  • Follow the installation instructions provided by Java to complete the installation process.

  1. Check Apache Ant installation:
  • Verify if Apache Ant version 1.6 or later is installed on your system.
  • If Apache Ant is not installed or if you have an older version, download the latest version from the Apache Ant website and follow the installation instructions.

  1. Download the Migration Tool:
  • Visit the Salesforce website or the official Salesforce Developer Tools GitHub repository to download the Migration Tool.
  • Choose the appropriate version for your operating system and download the tool.

  1. Install the Migration Tool:
  • Follow the installation instructions provided by Salesforce or in the downloaded tool package.
  • Typically, this involves extracting the downloaded archive and configuring the necessary environment variables or path settings.

Strengths of the Migration Tool

The Migration Tool offers several strengths that make it a valuable resource for Salesforce developers. It enables efficient movement of Apex and configuration changes between Orgs and provides convenience and flexibility in managing deployments. Here are some notable benefits of using the Migration Tool:

Command line utility

The tool's command line interface allows developers to interact with the Salesforce metadata API directly, facilitating quick and automated deployments without the need for extensive manual intervention.

Integration with metadata API

 By leveraging the Salesforce metadata API, the Migration Tool provides access to a wide range of metadata types, enabling seamless migration of components such as custom objects, workflows, triggers, and more.

Version control compatibility

The tool supports integration with version control systems, allowing developers to track and manage changes to their Salesforce codebase effectively. This integration helps maintain code integrity and enables collaboration within development teams.

Customizable deployment process

With the Migration Tool, developers have the flexibility to define and customize the deployment process according to their specific needs. They can specify which components to include or exclude, control the order of deployment, and handle any pre- or post-deployment actions.

Compatibility with existing build systems

The tool seamlessly integrates with popular build systems such as Jenkins or Bamboo, streamlining the overall development and deployment workflow. This compatibility enables organizations to leverage their existing infrastructure for efficient and automated deployments.

Simplified metadata management

The Migration Tool simplifies the management of Salesforce metadata by providing a consolidated platform to handle deployments. Developers can easily retrieve, deploy, and track changes to metadata components, ensuring a streamlined and organized development process.

Limitations of the Migration Tool

The Migration Tool, while useful for moving Apex and configuration changes between Orgs, does have its limitations. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when using this tool:

Incomplete support for certain metadata types 

The migration tool relies on the Salesforce metadata API, which means it cannot deploy all metadata types. Some types are not supported, and others, like Profiles and Permission Sets, are challenging to deploy in an automated manner.

Risk of overwriting code without proper source control

Deployments through the command line tool can be risky if source control is not implemented, potentially leading to unintentional overwriting of Salesforce code created by colleagues.

Complexity for non-technical users and limited accessibility

The command-line nature of the migration tool can be intimidating for some team members, especially those who are not comfortable using the command line or the Ant tool. Additionally, admins and other Salesforce stakeholders may not have the necessary expertise to deploy using this tool.

Significant maintenance and setup requirements

Setting up and maintaining Ant scripts for the Salesforce migration tool can be time-consuming and costly. It involves writing scripts, handling edge cases and errors, and configuring build systems like Jenkins or Bamboo. Maintaining a robust deployment process with the Ant migration tool may require dedicated resources, potentially including a full-time employee, depending on the team's size and Salesforce implementation.

Continuous Integration for Salesforce with Blue Canvas

Blue Canvas is designed to do a lot of the work that the migration tool does, but in a much simpler and more cost effective way.

First, Blue Canvas offers Salesforce Deployment Tools based on Git. This means that your source control and CI system are intimately connected. This means there is no danger of having one developer or admin overwrite the work of another. Blue Canvas can also do differential deploys which are faster than typical Ant deployments because they only involve the files and lines of code that have changed. Blue Canvas is also designed to take the changes coming from Salesforce DX and make them simple and accessible to you with no changes to your workflow.

Most importantly, there are no maintenance or setup headaches with Blue Canvas. You can set up CI and source control in a matter of four clicks and 1 minute. No one needs to make major adjustments to their daily workflow and yet you get the benefit of continuous integration.

Ready to get started with Blue Canvas - Get in touch with us today!


FAQ: Migration Tool 

What is the Migration Tool?

  • The Migration Tool is a Java/Ant-based utility that helps automate Salesforce deployments, enabling Apex and configuration changes to be moved between Salesforce organizations (orgs) using the Salesforce metadata API.

What is the Salesforce Ant Migration Tool?

  • The Salesforce Ant Migration Tool is the same as the Migration Tool. The name stems from its use of Apache Ant, a Java-based build tool, which aids in building and deploying on the Salesforce platform.

How can one install the Migration Tool?

  • To install the Migration Tool, first ensure that Java 1.7.x or later and Apache Ant 1.6 or later are installed on your computer. Then, visit the Salesforce website or official Salesforce Developer Tools GitHub repository, download the tool, and follow the provided installation instructions.

How does the Migration Tool compare to Eclipse?

  • The Migration Tool is faster and more efficient than Eclipse in deploying Salesforce code. While Eclipse is simpler, it's also slower, which can lead to lengthy deployment times.

What are the limitations of the Migration Tool?

  • The Migration Tool has some limitations: it cannot deploy all metadata types; it risks overwriting code if not integrated with proper source control; it can be complex for non-technical users; and it requires significant setup and maintenance.

What is Continuous Integration for Salesforce with Blue Canvas?

  • Continuous Integration with Blue Canvas is an alternative to the Migration Tool. It simplifies and streamlines deployments with features like Git integration, quick setup, and continuous integration capabilities.

What is

  • is the world’s first Platform as a Service (PaaS) provided by, enabling developers to create and deliver applications entirely in the cloud without additional software.

Why would Salesforce developers use the Migration Tool?

  • Salesforce developers use the Migration Tool for a more automated deployment schedule. It helps make deployments between different environments smoother.

What is the function of the Salesforce metadata API in the Migration Tool?

  • The Salesforce metadata API allows the Migration Tool to move Apex and configuration changes between Salesforce orgs.

What are the prerequisites for installing the Migration Tool?

  • You need Java 1.7.x or later and Apache Ant version 1.6 or later installed on your computer to install the Migration Tool.

What are the strengths of the Migration Tool?

  • The Migration Tool offers several strengths including: its command line interface, integration with metadata API, version control compatibility, customizable deployment process, compatibility with existing build systems, and simplified metadata management.

What is the risk of overwriting code with the Migration Tool?

  • Without proper source control, there's a risk that deployments through the command line tool can overwrite Salesforce code created by colleagues.

What are the maintenance and setup requirements for the Migration Tool?

  • Setting up and maintaining Ant scripts for the Salesforce migration tool can be time-consuming and costly. It involves writing scripts, handling edge cases and errors, and configuring build systems like Jenkins or Bamboo.

How does Blue Canvas compare to the Migration Tool?

  • Blue Canvas is a simpler and more cost-effective alternative to the Migration Tool. It facilitates deployments based on Git, differential deploys for faster deployments, and easy setup and maintenance.

How can the Migration Tool support a modern Salesforce deployment schedule?

  • The Migration Tool supports a modern Salesforce deployment schedule by enabling automated deployment and efficient movement of changes between different environments.

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