The battle of low-code solutions!
Comparison of the 3 competitors.
The rapidly changing business demand
Over the last few years, mainstream software development has been increasingly challenged and questioned. After all, the increasing demand for applications and modernisations has prompted companies to encourage their development teams to perform faster and explore better ways of application delivery.
It all started with changing the development approach, which needed to become more Agile. Meanwhile, we have moved on and evolved that approach to minimising used code for faster deployment and faster delivery of business value. Or, as we might put it differently, “the low code way”, which is also reflected in the project methodology of “Rapid Application Development”.
Although it is certainly not the latest innovation in the ‘programming’ market (low-code solutions have been around for over 20 years), it is only recently that low-code development platforms have found their way into brands and organisations on a large scale. Besides that, the market forecasts that this approach will only grow in the coming years.
“Gartner predicts that low-code
application development platforms will be
responsible for more than 65 percent of all
app dev activity by 2024.”
In short, companies will increasingly try to work their way through this development style and platforms. So, as you are reading this, you might as well also consider choosing a development solution that best suits your business needs. That’s why we would like to get you started, comparing the
top three players in the low-code development market today: OutSystems, Mendix, and Microsoft Power Apps.
Low-Code Platforms, say what?
Before we dive into the comparison, let’s give a little recap about low-code platforms and how to perceive and use them. Low-code platforms provide you with an interactive GUI in which you can design your application from scratch, or customise the pre-designed templates or modules that help you build next-gen innovative apps. With this, the platforms guarantee high development performance and rich functionality. Within a low-code platform, you can abstract and automate every step of the application development lifecycle to
streamline the delivery of various technical solutions.
We distinguish the following key differentiators when choosing low-code platforms:
- Helps to accelerate digital innovation and transformation;
- Ensures faster application development and speeds up the time-to-market;
- Because applications are built from visual blocks (VPL = Visual Programming Language)
- Less code has to be written
- Not limited to “native” programmers▪ Low development reduces costs by using pre-written code modules;
- Ensures scalability and agility;
- Integrated devops tooling
- Predefined & scalable infrastructure in place
- Enables developers to improve internal processes;
- If you don’t like it, write something new!
- Focuses on Business Value
- More time for UAT
- Business can be involved easier at the very beginning of development
- Facilitates reduction in current IT backlog and increase responsiveness
What do these low-code platforms offer you?
As a business, you need to constantly adapt to the latest technological developments and market demands in order to stay ahead of your competitors. For these rapidly evolving requirements, low-code development is the most efficient solution in delivering value.
Let’s take a look at some of the key aspects it offers:
1. It comes with visual modeling tools.
Designing apps with automated visual methods is much faster than developing them with code. Low-code platforms provide visual modelling capabilities using a graphical interface with built-in (reusable) modules. Low-code systems equipped with these visual modelling capabilities require minimal time to develop apps using code. In addition, visualising the
development process encourages the business owner to determine his needs and requirements more accurately in close cooperation with the developer(s).
2. It facilitates you with interactive drag-anddrop interfaces.
The GUI features enable a quick and easy development process for developers. As such, the functions provide intuitive assistance to developers in the development of software applications.
3. It offers you secure, scalable, and reusable features.
Low-code platforms should be scalable, secure, and ready to reuse to make them popular and usable. They ensure that the platform offers proper security to protect the application developped and deployed on the platform. A low-code development framework provides you with enough protection to secure your software applications. Also, low-code systems should be scalable to help you create more robust software applications as your team size grows. Low-code platforms permit users to reuse prebuilt or newly developed modules, plug-ins, and entire applications to develop software applications faster
4. I provides you with cross-platform accessibility
Low-code development platforms facilitate developers with multi-device compatibility features. These capabilities allow users to build software applications that run on different platforms and devices. Accordingly, they’ll provide developers the assistance to run scalable apps on multiple operating systems.
Three platforms – An overview
Low-code platforms provide an easy-to-use and robust environment to both coders and non-codees to help them build applications faster and more smoothly. These platforms help them with everything, including application development and deployment, seamless integrations, unique interface design as well as minimal coding.
As low-code application platforms are currently developing rapidly, we will focus on the main competitors: OutSystems, Mendix, and Microsoft Power Apps.
Let’s take a brief look at their individual offerings.
OutSystems is the most popular and widely used modernised low-code platform that is loaded with AI automation, visualisation tools, integration help, cloud architecture and, last but not least, fast drag and drop functions.
It enables developers to build robust and scalable enterprisegrade applications using a model-driven development environment. This is where you can craft customer experiences with modern applications based on pre-built templates. The applications that you build are secure, resilient, manageable and easy to scale.
The OutSystems low-code platform is a comprehensive package of:
- Accelerated development with visual, model-driven, AI-supported tools
- Artificial intelligence that enhances entire application lifecycles
- Advanced architecture and cloud-native runtime
- Collaborative development with seamless integrations
When thinking of custom development and accelerating development speed and delivery, OutSystems is key for enabling Rapid Application Development.
Mendix’s low-code platform enables abstraction and automation in a drag-and-drop GUI. The platform enables developers to build powerful business applications that improve your bottom line while simplifying work processes.
The cloud-native architecture of the platform delivers proven portability, scalable architectures and mission-critical reliability to the built applications. Mendix is considered one of the leaders in low-code, which allows you to build robust, scalable and resilient applications without needing a niche expertise.
The Mendix platform lets you take advantage of the following
- Easy-to-use visual modelling tools
- A wysiwyg no-code IDE
- Cloud-native architecture and collaborative development
- Embrace innovative applications with AI and cognitive services
- End-to-end process automation and seamless integration
Microsoft Power Apps
Power Apps is a suite of apps, services and connectors, and a data platform, that provides a rapid development environment to build custom apps for your business needs. With Power Apps, you can quickly build custom business apps that connect to your data stored in the underlying data platform (Microsoft Dataverse) or in various online and on-premises data sources (such as SharePoint, Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, SQL Server, etc.).
Power Apps built applications provide rich business logic and workflow capabilities to transform your manual operations into digital, automated processes. Additionally, apps built with Power Apps have a responsive design and can run seamlessly in the browser and on mobile devices (phone or tablet). Power Apps “democratises” the experience of building enterprise
apps by enabling users to create feature-rich, custom enterprise apps without writing code.
Power Apps provides an extensible platform that allows professional developers to interact programmatically with data and metadata, apply business logic, create custom connectors, and integrate with external data (although with some limitations)
How do these platforms differentiate from each other?
These platforms come with many features, but how exactly do they differ from each other? While all three platforms offer excellent services for lowcode development and app deployment, they do face certain challenges when developing applications. So, you will have to take this into account before deciding on choosing a preferred platform.
Therefore, let’s compare these platforms based on the following aspects:
▪ Code Generation
▪ App creation
▪ Cloud Solution
▪ Use Cases
THE FEATURES IN A NUTSHELL
Starting with Mendix, here are some of the things you can
do during your app creation:
- Develop and deploy scalable, and robust applications without any expertise.
- Visually design context-aware innovative applications, that deliver exceptional users experiences across a range of touchpoints and modalities.
- Accelerate app development process with end-to-end automation
- Develop powerful applications flawlessly with AI integration
- Deliver end-to-end process automation with applications
Moving further, here are some OutSystems features you can use during your app creation:
- Deploy and update apps with one click.
- It helps you analyze all models and immediately refactors dependencies. For large portfolios, it identifies all refactoring opportunities.
- Quickly build great-looking mobile experiences with offline data synchronization, native device access, and on-device business logic.
- You can quickly scale applications with OutSystems.
- Combine microservices with deep dependency
Finally, we’re wrapping up with the Power Apps features:
- To build a simple functional app with PowerApps, you do not need any coding experience. It has a simple drag and drop interface. All you need to do is bring all the elements of your app in one place, and that’s it. Your app is ready.
- The simple process of its connectivity with other services of Microsoft like Excel, OneDrive, SharePoint, etc. You can even connect it with non-Microsoft services like on-premise systems and SalesForce.
- Design and build a business app from a canvas in Microsoft Power Apps without writing code in a traditional programming language.
- Common Data Service (CDS) for Apps lets you securely store and manage data that’s used by business applications. Data within CDS for Apps is stored within a set of entities. An entity is a set of records used to store data, similar to how a table stores data within a database. CDS for Apps includes a base set of standard entities that cover typical scenarios, but you can also create custom entities specific to your organization and populate them with data using Power Query.
For both Mendix as Power Apps applications, the execution is done with proprietary code which will be interpreted, whilst OutSystems apps are generated from standard .NET code (& Reactive modules for the web applications). In case of OutSystems, this will improve the following:
- Performance: no limitations as there is no runtime, you can still finetune your database access or user interface without abstraction layer.
- Security: all code is available and can be scanned and audited.
- No lock-in: you can run applications on itself if you want.
The app creation process in OutSystems is a bit rigid. It needs users to choose application types such as smartphones and tablets right from the start. Applications are set up from reusable modules to avoid double development. Nevertheless, minimal IT experience in developing is required when making these choices upfront (as they’ll impact your future architecture).
When it comes to creating applications in Mendix, the platform assists you in fast low code app creation using pre-built templates. Also, the platform guides you with learning tutorials to quickly understand critical app templates. The
built-in abstraction (e.g. of database layer) makes it easier to cope and develop a business case using the foreseen templates. Differing from these pre-built templates will make it harder to program and creating more custom applications.
Power apps enables you to build small applications similar to Mendix, built on predefined templates, but with lots more limitations to it.
OutSystems has no fully cloud-based option available in comparison to Power apps & Mendix. Currently the OutSystems development studio still needs to be downloaded and installed locally.
On the other hand, OutSystems deployment & delivery Lifecyle is fully cloud managed and very intuitive as flexible.
When it comes to one-click deployment, Mendix is quite challenging when it comes to managing once the applications are built.
Microsoft Power Apps appears as a natural choice for O365 customers and comes with almost all O365 licence packages. This enables a tight integration with Office, Office 365 and Dynamics 365.
OutSystems’ integration capabilities include the ability to use 200K+ ‘ready-to-use’ connectors, develop new connectors to SaaS services as well as develop new connectors to custom systems, all based on open and extensible connectors. Both Mendix and OutSystems offer a limitless range of integrations along with powerful community-built components and apps.
While citizen developers prefer Mendix because it gives them a comfortable visual experience, enterprises believe OutSystems gives them better control over IT application integration and a better way to collaborate with citizens,
especially in situations where the multiple development groups are working together.
Mendix use cases are aimed at innovation, customer loyalty, and operational efficiency apps that make maximum use of the templates offered by the platform. As soon as these templates are largely deviated from, the Use Case becomes less efficient to implement.
OutSystems focuses on customer experience and case management through custom mobile and web application development.
Within the Power Apps platform, the focus is more on workflow management, process automation and rather small applications (due to technical and functional limitations), as well as chat bots.
But how to choose the right platform?
Which platform you choose to use for your organisation entirely depends on your technological and business needs and preferences.
Do you especially want to narrow the gap between business and IT and grow rapidly? Do you have a clear focus on citizen development, rather than on custom software development? Then Mendix could be the better option.
Do you want to technically determine everything yourself, but increase the development speed and delivery and above all have a wide and varied range of possibilities, options and functionalities at your disposal? Then OutSystems is probably the best choice. It is an important platform for applying Rapid Application Development (RAD) when developing custom software
Microsoft Power Apps is nice for simple business applications, but clearly lags behind Mendix and OutSystems in terms of possibilities. For more complex workflows and applications you’ll soon have to code in composite formulas. Most developers will not benefit from the maintainability in development speed. On the positive side, it has the (logically) best instant integration with the O365 tools and applications, which is useful for process automation and smaller business use cases.