The Growth of Low-Code Development Platforms
The Growth of Low-Code Development Platforms
Once you convince your development team of the benefits of low-code development, look for these essential features in your vendor.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
The demand for software application development, and specifically low-code platforms, is growing at an exponential rate. According to Gartner, through 2021 market demand for software application development will grow at a rate at least five times faster than IT has the capacity to deliver it. And, because of a lack of a clear understanding of the platforms, changing needs, or by not being appealing to use, a significant proportion of applications won’t meet user expectations.
Low-code application development platforms, such as Mendix, propose that visual modeling rather than coding can help CIOs better meet the demand for applications and improved outcomes. Analysts propose that such platforms make application development easier, faster and often better by enabling closer business engagement and collaboration in the development process.
There is a growing amount of user evidence in favor of low-code as an effective and diverse platform for building large business applications. But at the same time, there is a common misconception that applications built using such tools do not have the sophistication and scalability of applications using traditional coding languages. This view is outdated and wrong.
Low-code development platforms continue to gain traction in the market due to their ability to enable enterprises to rapidly build and deploy custom web and mobile apps, without the need for low-level coding, reports Forrester. Forrester surveys also reveal that low-code platforms are being leveraged for large, mission-critical applications—dispelling the myth that they’re suitable only for small, departmental apps.
Characteristics of Low-Code Platforms for Enterprise-Ready Applications
Low-code platforms must include the following six characteristics regardless of build method in order to be enterprise ready. If you agree with my choice of characteristics, then I’d argue that the top end of low-code vendor platforms fulfills them all, and so are eminently suitable for enterprise application development projects.
The Integration Must Be Seamless
It’s essential that applications can be connected with other systems and services easily. The better low-code platforms all offer extensive integration capabilities, including mapping from and to different data formats, transport protocols and more. Out-of-the-box connectors for cloud services like IBM Watson, AWS Machine Learning, and other smart services let you build sophisticated enterprise apps. Credible low-code platforms also offer connectors for your more traditional systems-of-record like SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, and others.
As an example, a team in the logistics industry built a mobile-first tracking solution with an immutable ledger of events to support end-to-end auditing across the supply chain. It took just 10 days to build, without a single line of code being written and used out-of-the-box connectors to integrate with IBM Watson and IBM Blockchain.
The Platform Must Be Open to Third-Party Services
Vendors at the sophisticated end of the low-code platform market offer APIs for all core platform functionality, allowing a seamless fit within your IT landscape. It is important for companies to ask the vendor whether their platforms allow applications to find and bind to third-party platform-level services, such as message queues or databases. Ask whether they incorporate third-party testing services or use automation servers such as Jenkins or Gitlab CI to orchestrate your continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline. Do they publish all application models — domain model, logic model, and UI model — in an open model specification? Will their Model API and Platform SDK provide access to your core application artifacts from third-party tools?
The Platform Must Provide Security
All major low-code platforms provide levels of security for the platform itself, and the applications built on the platform for both cloud and on-premise deployment. This includes handling security threats within the run-time environment and the provision of application security settings to define roles and access rights. Most platforms comply with key ISO standards. Many meet security standards for container environments. Back-up and disaster recovery processes are usual, too. If you’ll use your platform to develop applications for an enterprise technology environment, such as IBM or SAP, ask whether the low-code platform is certified by those vendors.
The Platform Must Be Able to Scale with The Business
Most cloud-native low-code platforms marry rapid development with a web-scale runtime architecture allowing on-demand elastic scaling for large user bases. It’s a good idea, though, to choose a platform that provides the freedom to scale just application components, regardless of dependencies. This is becoming a must-have in enterprise software development, yet not all vendors offer this capability. For example, if a backend process is taking more time than expected and needs extra horsepower, that component can scale up as needed without taking away from the user’s experience. Of course, you could scale the entire application, but to do so just because one process is slowing performance is a waste of resources.
The Platform Must Be Cloud-Based
IT departments expect to deploy applications into the cloud environments that best meet their functionality needs. Most low-code platforms offer cloud (as well as on-premise) deployment options. "Cloud-native" low-code players have a close relationship with a range of cloud deployment technologies such as Cloud Foundry, Docker, Kubernetes, and others. This allows complete freedom to deploy on virtually any cloud you prefer such as AWS and Azure, or the vendor’s own public service, on IBM Cloud, SAP, Pivotal or other public or private services.
Embracing container technology is important to modern application development and generally supported by strong low-code vendor platforms. Containers offer portability and are a solution to the problem of how to get software to run reliably when moved from one computing environment to another. They provide speed and rapid scalability, while also delivering resource efficiencies and operational cost savings. And of course, applications must run and work as designed locally – anywhere in the world.
The Platform Must Support DevOps
Today’s organizations need continuous innovation to keep up with the demands of an ever-changing market. They must change the dynamics of how they undertake application development and delivery. Many organizations are switching from a centralized development approach to one of working in small, cross-functional teams. These teams are implementing DevOps best practices and microservices to bring together development, testing, operations and line of business stakeholders. This approach fosters continuous integration, application monitoring and delivery of app portfolios. Many low-code platforms can also act as your app delivery hub by enabling continuous delivery with built-in DevOps capabilities, or through integration with perhaps Jenkins, Gitlab CI, or your existing DevOps toolset. One-click deployment, version management, continuous integration and automated testing should come as standard.
IT teams are under significant pressure to deliver more applications, faster and to better meet business needs because of digital transformation challenges. Low-code platforms can help organizations overcome the skills shortage for coders and facilitate and improve collaboration both within the development team and with end-users to deliver better business outcomes, faster.
Low-code platforms support the development of large-scale, secure and fully-integrated cloud-ready applications. Many organizations that have experienced low-code development are scaling up their rapid development teams to cope with growing demand and are delivering mission-critical enterprise applications. Low-code is about gaining value — not a drawback.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.