As we move into the cloud computing era, we've seen the floodgates open and waves of new development frameworks taking advantage of every opportunity that cloud computing technologies offer.
To the non-technical audience, it can become overwhelming and sometimes confusing to navigate these waters into new frontiers. For that reason, we're going to break down the technical jargon into the real world benefits.
Traditionally, organisations have become accustomed to building server facilities on site. Under the microscope, the indirect costs start to add up, significantly - floor space, security, fire suppressors, backup power and networking infrastructure, and the cost of highly talented staff to maintain and manage the infrastructure – to name a few. Add in the expense to duplicate all of this at a disaster recovery site, and it becomes an expensive and complicated business - only to manage your IT.
Cloud computing takes away most of this burden, by moving much of this infrastructure into a specialist service provider’s premise, offering savings through economies of scale. Not only do you save on the like-for-like costs, but you also see efficiencies through on-demand pricing models (billing per hour).
Some of the key benefits:
At the time of writing, the largest service providers include Amazon (AWS) and Microsoft (Azure), capturing 60% of the cloud computing market. Gartner predicts that by 2022, up to 60% of organisations will be using cloud technologies, signalling the industry shift from traditional to cloud-based infrastructure.
Cloud computing comes in various configurations. You can create a dedicated virtual machine to shadow your existing servers and migrate most of your applications as is onto the cloud platform, or you can run a Software as a Service (SaaS) model that allows you to pick specific features as you need at the operating system level. Many of the SaaS features will enable you to take advantage of native capabilities available on the platform, in theory. Still, not every organisation or business unit has the need or the resources to re-develop for that level of configurability.
While each cloud platform may offer unique features and plugins within their suite, it may require significant investment in training or even re-development of applications. The economics may not support every business case, specially customised back-office solutions or point solutions for a particular business unit. It may be more feasible to virtualise an existing server as is, on the cloud platform.
A good low-code development platform will aim to make it easier to build applications by removing as much of the hand-coding as possible. It consists of an intuitive drag and drop interface that can create software applications just as powerful as a conventional coding platform for most business applications. Low code platforms typically have short learning curves and support development by seasoned developers or technical business users with little coding experience.
Forrester predicts that most developers will work outside of centralised IT functions, where technical business users become self-serving in the pursuit of automating business processes and introducing efficiencies without the long lead times and a dependency on central IT functions.
The research further predicts that by 2024, three-quarters of large enterprises will be using at least four low-code development tools for both IT application development and citizen development initiatives.
The benefits of a low-coding cloud platform are numerous. Get your projects done faster, for any device, and roll out applications that make the most sense for your workflow. New dashboards, reports, processes and other functions can all be adjusted and fine-tuned together to deliver the right business solution faster, with security baked in from the start.
These services enable faster prototyping and go-to-market solutions for web, mobile and SaaS apps than traditional development typically has before. Plus you can purchase abstracted IT capabilities while letting someone else deal with the hardware, or even the more complicated software elements (SaaS).
Today, there is a tidal wave of providers who are packing increasingly large, varied chunks of IT into all-in-one plug-and-play offerings, mostly geared toward developers. In contrast, others require no coding knowledge at all.
Their focus is consistent across the industry - minimise the amount of coding needed to build modern business applications, bringing an idea to market as quickly and cheaply as possible.
This approach has proven useful for providing solutions for standard business tasks, wherein the developers of a low-code platform itself predicted the required functionality in advance. For example, every function in a CRM application can be implemented without writing a single line of code.
However, in real life, businesses tend to have unique requirements that go beyond the scope of low-code platforms. Once you get knee-deep in development, you'll want to customise a specific component to meet your particular business needs. But instead of customising the system, you'll be forced to change your business to match the capabilities of the low-code platform.
The ability to customise software applications has emerged as the driving force of friction when it comes to adoption, with many SaaS and iPaaS vendors. But there are always exceptions.
If time is of the essence and you require the need for customisation - low-code platforms like Outsystems or Linx are best among the pack. Their visual design framework and lack of boilerplate makes these tools much quicker to understand and use. Add their ability to customise key elements to form part of a multi-cloud/multi-application strategy, giving the user the ability to quickly share data across different software applications, databases, and websites.
Thanks to the ready-made functionality, there is no need to invent anything or program "from scratch." There are no hard limits on the system's ability, and developers don't have to sacrifice customisation flexibility and scope of their applications using low-code.
Lastly, with vendors including easy deployment to their cloud of choice, developers can quickly test, monitor and deploy scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments. Perhaps low-code and the cloud are a perfect match?
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