Dev Zone

Low-Code Integration and Extensibility: Is It a Myth or a Fact?


You’ve heard all about the benefits of low-code: increased development speed, productivity, agility. But, if you’re an enterprise architect, there’s one big concern that haunts you in your sleep whenever you hear about this type of technology: low-code integration.

On those nightmarish nights, probably a few questions pop into your mind and ruin a perfect good night of sleep:

  • Will you end up with another dud in the tech stack — one that works for a handful of use cases but ultimately lacks the extensibility, flexibility, and scalability today’s apps require?
  • Will the apps created with low-code integrate easily with your existing and often fragile legacy systems?
  • How difficult will it be to keep integrations performing as technology evolves?
  • What is the learning curve to become proficient, and what will happen to the expertise you’ve acquired with previous technologies? Plus, will you and your team be able to leverage the newly acquired knowledge in the future when transitioning to another stack?
  • And most importantly, will you hit a wall?

Low-Code Integration: You’re the Weakest Link. Goodbye!

the weakest link show 

Indeed, for some low-code platforms, these fears aren’t unfounded. Many low-code architectures use interpreters and proprietary stacks, creating a “walled garden” effect that constrains enterprise dev teams.

These solutions can accelerate development, but only to the detriment of control and flexibility. Most enterprises are contending with decades of legacy tech and data structures in both on-premises and cloud environments, and the complexity increases when connecting systems and data to new apps.

Low-code platforms that aren’t architected from the ground up to be open and extensible often lack the streamlined integrations needed to connect apps to enterprise databases and core ERP, CRM, HCM, and SCM systems.

Even with APIs, it takes too much time for developers to read the documentation and get the connection to work — time that’s taken away from higher-value work.

And if you can’t bring an existing integration into the visual development environment to be reused in the future, each subsequent integration becomes a custom project.

Looking for a Low-Code Platform without Limits

When considering a low-code development platform, you must ensure the system will fit the current tech stack and can adapt for future needs.

At the very least, you need a system that provides a rapid app development environment via composable elements and a drag-and-drop interface.

But it must also:

  • Seamlessly integrate with your existing code, databases, and business-critical systems — such as ERP, CRM, HR, and supply chain
  • Support a vibrant developer community and an ever-growing library of components and connectors
  • Integrate with any API or web service in a low-code way
  • Enable developers to finesse components as needed with traditional code
  • And, most importantly, regardless of the integration mechanism, allow you to reuse those integrations in a governed way, ensuring security and leapfrogging developers productivity

The ultimate low-code platform should empower your development team to create whatever the business needs — i.e., no garden walls — in a much more streamlined, accessible, governed, and accelerated fashion. Any system that introduces new complexity or has limits on integrations simply won’t measure up.

OutSystems: Open and Extensible Low-Code Integration

OutSystems has long understood the need to balance acceleration with control and flexibility. Our high-performance low-code platform is built to provide full dev control through extensibility at all levels: front-end, back-end, database, and integration.

Today’s apps drive value through data — and apps that can’t connect with the systems and databases your enterprise relies on will never deliver on the full promise of that data. Without streamlining integration, the benefits of reducing the code load via a low-code platform will only go so far.

Furthermore, apps that either don’t consume or expose data/services create organizational data silos, which creates business blind spots and jeopardizes any company's bird-eye view of the day-to-day operation.

With OutSystems, your dev team can use 400+ pre-built connectors, web services, and APIs to get things moving. This enables you to greatly increase your dev team’s productivity, as setting a connection to an external source is just a few clicks away.

Plus, it reduces the skill set required to do an integration, preventing developers from going through endless API documentation.

These two aspects give businesses a very short time-to-value when releasing value to end-users.

Building an integration with OutSystems using the Integration Builder.

If you need to connect your app to legacy systems that aren't already built out, OutSystems provides the flexibility to do so in a streamlined environment. In fact, many of our integrations were built by our active community of developers.

These integrations are the tip of the iceberg in terms of extensibility. Here are a few more ways OutSystems keeps you flexible:

  • No limits. Instead of offering a limited number of blocks, modules, and components, OutSystems offers the Forge, a repository of more than 5,000 reusable libraries, widgets, plugins, themes, templates, and pre-built extensions that can be used as is or customized. You can also create your own components and make them available to any OutSystems users.
  • Out-of-the-box integrations. Our Integration Builder lets you connect enterprise systems like SAP ECC, SAP S/4HANA, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Dataverse, and Sharepoint Online in just a few clicks. You can also integrate existing systems using SOAP web services and REST APIs without traditional coding.
  • Database support. We offer native support for SQL Server, SQL Azure, Oracle, PostgreSQL, Azure PostgreSQL, AWS Aurora, MySQL, MongoDB, and DB2 iSeries. Once you create the connector, your team can manipulate data in the visual editor. Other databases can be accessed via standard code or native APIs, such as the REST APIs for repositories like CouchDB, or Hadoop.
  • One-click deployment. Newly created extensions — along with all dependencies — can be deployed with a single click. Once published, the extension can be used for any future need.
  • ODBC connectors. Leverage existing ODBC drivers and connect to your desired system. Once configured, they can be reused in a governed way by any OutSystems application — configure once, reuse everywhere.
  • Classic code capabilities. Sometimes only custom will do for your particular use case. You can finesse and extend any component with your custom code (C# or any popular DLL library), which can then be integrated into the development environment to become a reusable component in a low-code way.
  • Extend platform development capabilities. Leveraging OutSystems Platform APIs, customers and partners can easily build development tools on top of the platform's capabilities. A good example of this is the Hubway Connector. Built by OutSystems developers at PhoenixDX, it’s available to any OutSystems users to create, configure and manage APIs to expose data from OutSystems apps.
  • AI for dev productivity. Today’s apps are complex webs of interdependent elements. In addition to providing in-line next step suggestions to reduce repetitive work, the OutSystems AI Mentor System augments your team’s skill set by scanning and flagging potential issues that hinder teams agility, like technical debt, security vulnerabilities, dependency issues, performance bottlenecks, duplicate code, and architecture deviations.
  • Easy exit. If you ever choose to unsubscribe from the OutSystems platform, we’ve streamlined the separation process so you never face vendor lock-in. You can continue using existing data for your existing apps, keep it for historical purposes, or progressively migrate or integrate it from other applications.

So, Is Low-Code Integration a Myth or a Fact?

It depends on the low-code platform you choose. If you’re currently evaluating the leading vendors, be sure you choose one that doesn’t disrupt your current development process but one that complements it.

Integrations are hard, but remember: low-code platforms are no magic wand. They still require coding expertise, whether it’s actually hand-coding or the knowledge and experience of people who understand the broader context of integration, including security and compliance issues, and that know how to deal with change over time.

OutSystems was designed to support professional developers and make them 100x times more productive. Not to replace them or limit them.

If you’re interested in learning more about how OutSystems enables you to reduce integration development time and address complex scenarios with ease, check out this Tech Talk.