2023 Gartner® Critical Capabilities for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms
One of the most common backlashes I hear about low-code — particularly from enterprise architects — is that low-code isn’t enterprise-ready. And that’s a big “no” when it’s time to pick yet another tool to add to your already vast stack. So, if you were assigned by your boss to evaluate a low-code platform and are skeptical about how scalable it can be, read on.
Low-Code Scalability: Why So Skeptical?
An application is scalable when it can keep up with increasing load without affecting performance and user experience.
There’s a reason why IT professionals question the scalability of low-code. It’s because many low-code vendors lower the bar to develop software by allowing business users (aka, “citizen developers”) to build their own applications. This has led to the notion that low-code is targeted at small, non-business-critical applications confined to user departments and limited users without scalability in mind.
But therein lies the fallacy: just like any other software development tool, not all low-code platforms provide the same capabilities. We’ve covered this subject in several other articles, so for an in-depth discussion, take a look at our article on the low-code market.
The TL;DR version is that different low-code platforms cover different use cases and can even target different personas.
Forrester, for example, divides the low-code market into two:
- Low-code for business developers that offers simple tooling and a more modest scale. This type of low-code platform includes Caspio, QuickBase, and AppSheet.
- Low-code for professional developers that provide rich tooling and high scale. That’s where you’ll find platforms like OutSystems, Mendix, Microsoft, and ServiceNow.
Even within these two buckets, the ability to scale will vary. So, if you’re evaluating the top vendors, I strongly recommend you carefully read their evaluation guide and documentation. To help you out with that task, in the next section, I’ll share a few considerations on how to better evaluate the scalability of low-code platforms, and how OutSystems solves these challenges to ensure our platform is enterprise-ready.
How to Measure Low-Code Scalability
There are two scalability types to consider.
- Runtime scalability: the ability to increase the capacity of deployed applications and provide fast user experiences for large numbers of users and compute-intensive operations.
- Platform scalability: the ability to build and manage large, interconnected portfolios of applications that address multiple use cases simultaneously all the time or when needed.
1. Runtime Scalability
Runtime is the simpler of the two low-code scalability measures and the one commonly considered by industry analysts. As I shared above, for Forrester, runtime scalability is a critical aspect that separates low-code for business users (modest scale) from low-code for pro-devs (higher levels of scalability).
In the same sense, Gartner, in its Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low-Code Applications Platforms, considers that enterprise LCAPs are “used to create enterprise-class applications that require'' (among other things) high performance, high availability, and scalability.
In the case of OutSystems, you can meet even the most massive of customer requirements with vertical and horizontal scalability and leverage containers and microservices built-in. Applications generated by the platform can run independently of any OutSystems components. This means:
- You can deploy and scale the applications you create to any cloud provider of your choice, be it the OutSystems cloud, AWS and Azure; or you can deploy into a multi-cloud, hybrid, or on-premises infrastructure.
- You can scale from a pilot project to an Internet-wide deployment that supports millions of users.
And it doesn’t stop here. If you joined us at NextStep, our yearly conference, you may have heard of the OutSystems Developer Cloud — ODC — that combines cloud-native architecture and the next generation of visual, model-driven professional development tools with elite-level CI/CD practices.
ODC comes to democratize cloud-native development that is typically prohibitively expensive for most companies as it takes enormous amounts of resources — money, skills, time — to get up and running.
ODC has been designed from the ground up with scalability in mind as it has complete separation between the platform services and your runtime applications.
ODC relies on a state-of-the-art implementation of Kubernetes to auto-scale computational elements of your apps, without burdening you with the cost of understanding this powerful-yet-complex technology. On the database side, we’ve also implemented a highly scalable, zero maintenance downtime approach using a serverless database engine that automatically scales to handle increased load.
2. Platform Scalability
Low-code platforms maximize developer productivity and increase agility enabling organizations to launch not only new apps faster, but also to change existing applications based on users feedback or market changes equally faster.
But developing and delivering at scale poses challenges regardless of the technology stack. Dealing with concurrent releases and maintaining multiple environments at different paces can bring their own challenges.
There can be too many dependencies between teams and applications, a lack of collaboration between teams working at different paces, and a slow feedback loop on validations in the development and delivery process. Additionally, with multiple applications reaching production at the same time, there can be an excessive amount of merging problems and emergency fixes. Physical branching is the traditional industry response to these challenges but has several drawbacks, which are amplified in long-lived branching scenarios.
OutSystems aims at enabling organizations to become high performers as designated by DORA research: organizations that deploy multiple times a day, with lead time for changes and restore of service in less than one hour, and with minimum change failure.
Here are a few capabilities that support platform scalability.
1. Architectural Agility at Scale
OutSystems provides in-depth impact analysis of entire systems before their release, providing the advance warning needed to ensure builds don’t break. This saves dev teams hours of validating and fixing cross-architecture impacts on complex sets of apps or large systems. You can effectively implement a full-fledged microservices architecture. Teams are more agile, safely creating and changing reusable services and applications fast and at scale.
2. Monitoring and Troubleshooting at Scale
OutSystems has embedded performance monitoring, out-of-the-box analytics, and built-in dashboards that highlight app performance concerns or breakdowns. Dev teams can identify choke points or services that are down before they impact the health of the entire portfolio (SaaS and external legacy systems included).
3. Governance at Scale
With OutSystems, you can control who can create and manage services and who can consume them, using a full entitlement model that extends to all apps and services. As a result, you can structure parallel development teams based on delivery for each business area. Multiple continuous delivery pipelines work independently, while still modularizing and reusing services.
4. Operations at Scale
With OutSystems, organizations can deploy apps and services to the OutSystems Cloud or any other cloud of your preference (private and public), on-premises, or hybrid cloud. The OutSystems architecture guarantees that there is no loss of functionality and enables developers to move from the public cloud to an on-premises installation if need be.
“Scalability vs. Low-Code”: The Verdict
The idea that low-code isn’t enterprise-ready is nothing more than myth. Sure, there are low-code tools that might be more suitable for departmental-level applications, but not if you’re talking about high-performance low-code platforms like OutSystems.
OutSystems allows you to create pretty much anything your business needs: from simple departmental apps to disruptive, customer-facing mobile and web apps and even core systems that your business depends upon.
OutSystems Principal Product Manager Dan Iorg has spent the last 25 years solving problems by creating high-quality software solutions for multiple companies, including desktop, mobile, web and internal applications to off-the-shelf commercial applications. Driving innovation by using technology is what keeps him happy and he enjoys finding ways to improve what is working and solving problems that enable companies to grow.See All Posts From this author