Sunday 14 January 2024

Scratch Org Snapshots in Spring '24

Note: This feature is in beta in Spring '24. Like all other betas, this functionality may never go GA and may disappear at any time. Caveat emptor.

Image generated by DALL-E 3 based on a prompt by Bob Buzzard


The Spring '24 release of Salesforce moves the scratch org snapshot functionality into beta. I've been waiting to get my hands on this and so far it hasn't disappointed.

Whenever we get new features of this nature, I like to reflect on how far we've come in Salesforce land. In this case I was testing with the codebase of our BrightMEDIA accelerator, and when we started building this in mid-2014 (aka nearly a decade ago), we typically allowed a week to get a new developer set up. We had to spin up a Developer Edition, raise a bunch of tickets to get various features enabled and increase the Apex character limit, install a number of packages, carry out a number of manual setup steps,  deploy the code and assign permission sets. For whatever reason, no two Developer Editions appeared to have the same setup, so typically the deployment was an iterative process where we discovered what was missing or off instead of on by default. Then they'd go through and set up some standing data to be able to work in the org. 

Fast forward to the end of 2023 and I have a node script that creates a scratch org, installs the packages, deploys the code, loads the standing data and produces a ready to go development environment in around 30 minutes. I'm always interested in speeding things up though!

Creating a Snapshot

Thanks to a pre-release environment that I've also had for a decade, I have a pre-release dev hub which meant I could enable the beta before the Spring '24 release goes live. Then I assigned myself the appropriate object permissions for Org Snapshots and I was ready to create. 

I set up my scratch org using my existing script, which creates an org with the following applied:

  • Four managed packages
  • Approximately 9,000 metadata components
  • Approximately 2,000 records
Creating a snapshot of this org took 11 minutes, which I must admit was quite a bit faster than I was expecting.

Using the Snapshot

This started off with a bit of a challenge, in that attempting to use the snapshot kept giving the error that the snapshot wasn't Active, but listing the Dev Hub snapshots showed that it was indeed Active. I spent a while searching through the CLI Github issues list and the snapshot pilot Trailblazer group, but it seemed like I was the lucky one who got to experience this first. This was quite soon after the pre-release had gone live, so I figured it might be a simple bug and played the waiting game.

About 7 hours later my masterful inactivity was rewarded, as my snapshot sprang to life and I was able to run the commend to create an org from it. In fairness, it might have started working 10 minutes later, but it was around 7 hours later I had the time to try it out again.

The even better news was that creating a scratch org from the snapshot took 6 minutes - an 80% saving on the 30 minute creation time for my script. The org was flawless too - all the metadata and data was there.

The End of Sandboxes?

So does this mean that we can all create scratch org snapshots rather than sandboxes going forward? They even contain data, so maybe we can do away with full or partial copy sandboxes too.  I don't think so, for a few reasons.


Scratch orgs and org snapshots, have a 30 day lifespan. From a developer perspective this is fine - we treat these orgs and disposable and typically create a fresh one when we start a new piece of work. That isn't necessarily the case for orgs used for training, QA, integration testing or testing against a new release. It's particularly unsuitable for pre-production environments which mirror production - imagine having to recreate all your test integrations at the start of every month!


Scratch orgs and org snapshots are limited to 200Mb of data. Again, probably fine for many development tasks, but again likely to be too small for training, pre-production and test environments that are indicative of production. 


Sandboxes replicate your production org licenses, so all of your users can have access. Scratch orgs are a much more restrictively licensed, usually somewhere between 1 and 10 seats per feature. When we were adding community (now Experience Cloud) features to BrightMEDIA, we had the princely sum of 1 partner community license available in our scratch orgs - you'd have to be quite brave to promote to production with that kind of limitation on your testing!

Completeness of Version Controlled Metadata

This is where developer/developer pro sandboxes will retain their usefulness once scratch org snapshots are live. Some organisations with large, mature Salesforce orgs won't have all their metadata in version control, because why would they invest the time and money to do that when they don't need to. They'll likely have Apex, flows, lightning components, and maybe some second generation packages in version control, but things like sharing rules, report and dashboard folders, duplicate rules that are managed by administrators probably won't. Yes this is a sweeping generalisation, but you get the general idea. Being able to create a guaranteed replication of production to work in will be an important capability for years to to come in my view.  That said, they'll probably become less used as time goes on and maybe scratch org snapshots get longer lifespans.

So not a sandbox killer, but that was never the intention. For those of us with a very source-centric development approach however, this is another great addition to the developer toolbelt.

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