Whether it is code transparency, data ownership, Integrated Development Environment (IDE) interoperability, API connectivity, hidden costs, or vendor lock-ins, there are many restrictions when using a low-code platform. In modern application development plans, vendor selection is a complex decision making process.
While many low-code platforms claim to have features such as “No vendor lock-in”, export to external IDEs, custom integrations, and no extra cost for additional features, in reality, there are many restrictions you may have to work around. When selecting a low-code platform, it is important to know the scope and restrictions involved. The following will help you understand whether a low-code platform is truly open:
Question 1: What happens if you decide to move, will you get “locked-in” to the platform?
A “lock-in” includes different aspects, from the creation of standalone applications, data access, and control, to open-source or proprietary code generated. When examining the platform, you need to approach the answer to this question through several angles.
- What type of applications does the platform create? You need to know whether the applications created on the platform are stand alone or if they need a subscription to run. Ideally, you want to create applications that can run independently without dependencies on the tool, to ensure they will work even if you move away from the platform.
- Do you have data access and control? It is important to know how you access your data and where it is stored, whether on their servers or in-house. If data is stored on their servers, make sure you find a simple way to download or export the data.
- Does the platform have proprietary technologies or open standards? You need to know the type of code the platform generates. Is it open-source or proprietary code? If required, can it be maintained manually? While many vendors claim “no vendor lock-in”, they use proprietary technologies to generate code, making code maintenance and access to platform libraries a challenge. The low-code platform you select must use proven, open-source technologies where the platform libraries are easily accessible under open source licenses.
Question 2: Can you customize applications and integrate custom business logic?
Real-world, enterprise applications have complex business logic. While many low-code platforms serve the needs of citizen developers helping them build applications with simple use-cases, you need to make sure the platform you choose allows for customization based on your business logic. The best choice would be to use a platform that al lows business users to create applications first and then enables the technical team to customize. In this way, you can integrate custom business logic and customize applications, thereby reducing iterations and accelerating delivery.
Question 3: Is the platform open and flexible to allow two-way IDE interoperability?
The main criterion when selecting a low-code platform is its flexibility and openness. In application development, interoperability between development environments is critical, where interfaces can completely understand and work with other systems without restrictions on access or implementation. The platform you select must have the ability to export project code to external IDEs and re-import to the platform. Along with this two-way IDE interoperability, the ideal platform will offer an open-source runtime library, allowing for deeper customizations free from lock-in restrictions.
Question 4: Does the platform make integration with external systems easier and allow custom integration?
One of the challenges of application development and modernization is database integration. Many platforms, due to a non-standard data model, use multiple tools for integration. This results in writing custom Java code for database integration making it an onerous affair. An ideal platform must be designed taking into consideration business data that is stored and accessed across proprietary systems. It needs to provide a range of integration options that add functionality to your applications and also enable you to create and reuse custom integrations.
Question 5: Does the platform make it easier to create, share and consume APIs?
APIs are important as they act as an interface between systems, allowing applications to talk to each other. Low-code platforms have easy to use, drag-and-drop technology to generate APIs. While most platforms are limited to providing support to connect APIs, what you need is a platform that adopts an API-first approach. The platform of choice would be one that automatically generates APIs and integrates business logic. It needs to allow developers to effortlessly create, share, consume, and bind APIs to UI components.
Question 6: Are there any hidden costs in the licensing structure?
One of the main aspects when selecting a low-code platform is pricing. There is no standard, one-size-fits-all licensing structure and hidden costs could increase your budgeted cost. To be certain you know what you pay for, you need to know the type of charged by vendors such as fee for end-user seats, developer seats, run-time, distribution and maintenance fee. Some platforms also provide standard email support included in the cost.
There are many questions the answers to which will help you make a better decision when selecting a low-code platform. The most important criterion, however, must be how it fits in with your business goals and how it can empower your teams to deliver more with less.