Being in the market of application development for almost a decade, my team at WaveMaker has been through some of the big shifts in the application market. In my opinion, one such shift is the magnitude by which IT budgets have been slashed over the years. Although this could be due to many reasons, what is important is that this budget cut has caused a demand growth for low-code platforms, whose promise is to churn out applications faster and in an economical manner. Beside WaveMaker, companies like Outsystems, Mendix, Appian started catering to this market, but I believe there is still more value to be created and open-low-code platforms will be driving it.
Emergence of Open Low-code
A major portion of IT budgets go into the development and maintenance of core enterprise application. This includes LoB apps and apps with emerging cloud-native architecture which are built by mainstream developers and not business users. What I have seen is that for developers, code control and innovation are very important. We thought for low-code to be more valuable to developers, it should have an impact on how mainstream developers build and maintain applications. Open low-code platforms do just that.
Let’s understand how open low-code addresses both the productivity needs and key concerns of an enterprise as we have seen.
- Built for professional developers
Professional developers often build applications that are long-lived and have complex business logic. These applications are highly secure and integrated with enterprise ecosystem and in some cases are fine-tuned for cloud scalability. Open low-code platforms provide developers an end-to-end ability to handle such complex application needs; from best practices around the generated code, to cloud-ready deployables. According to me, because the generated code is easily extendable with their favourite IDEs, over and above mere productivity gains, open low-code platforms also have higher chances of developer adoption.
- Long-lasting technology
Proprietary technology frameworks will result in developers hitting a wall sooner or later. Open standards-based best of breed application frameworks allows developers to easily learn and adapt the platform as they can find greater learning resources. Working with enterprises we have seen that if your stack is modern, it gives greater runway to your development teams as well as to the applications being built. Look for modern technology frameworks like Angular 7, Spring, REST APIs, OAuth, SQL, etc. that allows best performance as well as easy integration into your enterprise ecosystem.
- Best practices for code generation
Given that much of the application code is auto generated by a low-code platform, we often found developers are concerned about its quality, performance and flexibility aspects. We have seen many low-code platforms generate proprietary code that is hidden and not easily readable. Open low-code platforms make the entire application code (frontend as well as backend) fully visible. Also, professional development teams like to use tools of their choice (Eclipse, IntelliJ) for code extensions. Open low-code platforms provide the ease of interoperability of code changes across inbuilt editors as well as external IDEs (Eclipse, IntelliJ), etc. The best strategy in my opinion is to adopt a Declarative to Code Behind approach for low-code platforms.
- Pluggable Enterprise Architecture
Application development encompasses full lifecycle from create, integrate, validate, test, deploy and update. For enterprises, there are existing systems that development teams integrate the code with to take code live production to end users. Open low-code platforms can seamlessly integrate with the overall enterprise architecture like existing data sources (Database, ERPs, etc), security (LDAP, AD, SSO), DevOps (CI/CD), repositories (VCS), hosting systems (App Servers, Kubernetes) to name a few.
- Cloud-native delivery
Low-code platforms that support continuous delivery mechanism allows code changes to be quickly deployed into production environments. In our experience with customers, we have seen enterprises have a mix of VMs as well as container runtimes. Also, enterprise applications run on multi-public cloud as well as private cloud setups or even on-premise environment. Open low-code platforms enable deploying the code as well as applications seamlessly into any of the above environments. It also provides the option to deploy/test code directly into custom delivery pipelines. The ability to integrate directly to Kubernetes as an upcoming container runtime gives greater flexibility in terms of portability, scalability and DevOps efficiency within the enterprise. That is what we at WaveMaker are aiming to provide. With WaveMaker, enterprises can directly deploy applications into Kubernetes cluster for better scalability and performance at runtime.
Need for Open Low-code
Open low-code platforms, to a large extent, aims to address the pain points of developers trying to build mainstream enterprise applications. It can fulfill both the productivity needs of the developers as well as their key concerns around modern best practices for application development, integration and delivery. With such platforms, businesses can be sure of better adoption amongst developers and thereby ensure faster release cycle of quality applications without straining IT budget.