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What is a Low-Code/No-Code Platform?

Thierry Ciot, Software Architect and Product Owner, Progress

You may have heard that developing on low-code/no-code platforms is an important strategy to create all sorts of applications at an unprecedented speed and at a drastically reduced cost and that they are well suited for the cloud and for starting small and scaling very quickly. In this article, we will explore what a low-code platform is and why it matters to you.

What is a Low-Code/No-Code Platform?

Offering an academic definition is not very useful because these platforms are still evolving very fast as the market they are addressing is increasing exponentially. Instead, let’s look at its intrinsic characteristics.

 A low-code platform offers the following advantages over traditional development platforms:

1) It allows developers to create web applications using point-and-click/drag-and-drop and metadata model methodology and to extend the application with code at specific hook points.
2) It offers lots of built-in services. When you come from a world of traditional web programming, this is a huge departure from it as you won’t have to re-invent many services that you will need sooner or later.
3) It provides an environment where you can develop, deploy, run, scale and manage your application, all from a single place.

  β€‹It is important to recognize when your initial applications are successful and the requirements start to pile up  

The net effect is these platforms allow building applications in days and weeks, not months or years.

Let’s dive into the practical tenets of these platforms with the example of Rollbase, the low-code/no-code platform of progress. With Rollbase, developers prototype, design, implement, deploy, run, install and publish to marketplace their applications, all from a web browser. This is one of the key features to make the platform a first-class citizen in the cloud.

How does it Work?

To develop an app using a low-code/no-code platform, the first step is to define objects and their properties, then establish relationships between objects. The second step… Wait, there is no second step. At this stage, you have, out of the box, a web application that works across multiple devices, from smart phones to desktop. Yes, that’s right. You get responsiveness without having to hire hard-to-find developers who are knowledgeable both in responsive techniques and IOS or Android platforms.

Here are a few screenshots demonstrating the above:

The first two screenshots show how one creates an application, its associated objects, the attributes and fields for each object and, finally, the relationships and cardinality between objects:

And here is how a simple application renders on a desktop, a Samsung Android smartphone and an iPad Mini tablet, respectively. This application lists travel destinations with hotels and flights in a 1 to n relationship and has been pre-populated with sample data.

Built-in Services

As mentioned above, the next big advantage of a low-code/no-code platform comes from the large set of built-in services.

As we just saw, the platform provides responsive and adaptive UI for multiple devices but it also includes built-in themes, UI blueprints, white labeling, support for multi-national markets (multi-lingual, including left-to-right and right-to-left support for languages like Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew), user management (self registration, provisioning, password management, etc.), custom reporting capabilities and document creation from your application data in various formats.

At the back-end level, the platform provides a strong security and permission model (authentication, authorization, role attribution and auditing); data connectivity such as import/export capabilities, search and indexing; workflow control; and built-in integration with various email systems and authentication providers (SAML, ADFS, OpenID Connect, LDAP, Kerberos).

For cloud-centric environments, it provides services like multi-tenancy (complete isolation for multi-customers on same instance for reduced cost) and marketplace for applications distribution.

In the interest of keeping this article short, I won’t get into the details of each service, but it is important to recognize when your initial applications are successful and the requirements start to pile up, these built-in services will come in handy and save your team a considerable amount of time.

What Makes Low-Code/No-Code Platforms so Attractive?

There are many reasons why these platforms are emerging and are successful, most notably, because they address the following real business needs:

• Need for agility and delivery speed to show relevance and innovation (to be able to start small, fail fast or grow and scale quickly)
• Need for modernization at low cost, in particular to unlock data from legacy apps
• Lack of skilled workers and the ever increasing number of technologies and frameworks developers have to keep up with
• Too many applications do not get built (according to Gartner 80 to 85% of IT budget is spent on maintenance)

In conclusion, a low-code/no-code platform really shines not only when you want to build applications rapidly, but also when you need to accelerate delivery and scale as demand rises. Whether you want to modernize existing applications, reduce your IT backlog or create brand new multi-devices applications in the cloud, you should investigate how a low-code/no-code platform can empower your organization’s agility and capacity to quickly and inexpensively innovate.

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