In this blog post, we explore a few things to consider when choosing a low-code platform for your business to avoid getting locked in. We’ll also explore the differences between a high-performance low-code platform and “traditional” low-code regarding vendor lock-in.

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The need for speed, increased customer presence online, and new hybrid work environments have increased the popularity of low-code platforms. In fact, industry analysts agree that low-code will be responsible for most enterprise applications in the next few years.

“By 2025, 70% of new applications developed by enterprises will use low-code or no-code technologies, up from less than 25% in 2020. “
Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms

The changes in the last couple of years have certainly revealed the benefits of low-code. However, many IT leaders are concerned about its impact on the future of their business. According to recent Gartner inquiries, one of the main reasons for that anxiety is low-code vendor lock-in.1

In other words, what will happen to your applications if you ever unsubscribe from the low-code platform?

What Is Vendor Lock-In? What Are the Risks?

Vendor lock-in happens when a customer depends on a vendor’s proprietary technology to address its challenges. Often, this technology is incompatible with that of competitors or other vendors. Vendor lock-in can spread beyond technology to any dependence you have on a vendor, such as database, customer relationship management, operating systems, and so on.

When low-code platforms were not as sophisticated as many are now, vendor lock-in could cause you to lose all access to the apps developed with the platform once you stop paying for it. Today, low-code platforms still have many differences—I talked about that in my previous blog post about the low-code market—and that includes flavors of vendor lock-in. However, most have capabilities that prevent you from losing access to your applications when your contract ends or you don’t renew. But that doesn't mean you're risk-free. In many cases:

  • 1. You can’t modify your apps, which means that when technology evolves, they don’t. They can even degrade and add to your technical debt.
  • 2. Cumbersome development is necessary to migrate data, business logic, and UI layers to another platform.
  • 3. You can migrate the different layers of the application, but depend on a selection of technology under the vendor's influence. This may force you to hire new dev talent specialized in that new technology at a time when dev talent is scarce–and expensive.

What Lock-In Isn’t

Most low-code providers state they won’t lock you in based on the following arguments:

  • You can integrate with other technologies and applications.
  • You can use open-source components that are based in standard-based languages like C#, .NET, Java, React, or Angular.
  • You can run the platform in any cloud environment of your choice.
  • The platform generates code that you can edit with your preferred language.

This is definitely an evolution from a few years ago. However, the likelihood that you can’t modify your apps, you will increase your technical debt, and migrating to another platform will be challenging is very high.

That’s where basic low-code and high-performance low-code differ.

The high-performance low-code delivered by OutSystems provides capabilities to ensure you are never locked in. That’s a bold statement for sure, but I can walk you through the reasons why. All it takes is a quick comparison of OutSystems to other low-code platforms based on Gartner’s recommendations for how to avoid getting locked-in.

How to Avoid Vendor Lock-In

In a recent presentation called “How to Mitigate Vendor Lock-In, Technical Debt, and Security Risks of Low-Code Development,” Jason Wong from Gartner shared a few recommendations on how to avoid getting locked in with your low-code provider.

Think in the Long Term

Ensure the licensing model of the low-code platform is suitable for the applications you are building in the longer term — that is 3-5+ years. Consider the type and number of users, and the use case — are those apps for internal or external use? Based on that, evaluate the impact the licensing model can have on your vision.

Implement a Loosely Coupled Architecture

The more you are tightly integrated with the low-code platform, the more locked in you are. To avoid being “too locked in,” keep your database separate from the one in the low-code platform as a “system of record” for more complex use cases. This way, you can keep it if you end your contract with the low-code provider.

Minimize Coding and Scripting

Avoid customizations requiring extensive code components in the platform and use extensions such as APIs for supporting integration and custom front-end development. For more complex scenarios, build customizations and extensions in a cloud platform or as a serverless function and integrate them to the low-code platform via API.

Now, let’s see how high-performance low-code checks all boxes of these recommendations and how it’s truly no-lock-in compared to traditional low-code.

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You can read Savana’s testimonial about how OutSystems’ no-lock-in offer gave them the flexibility they needed as an ISV to transform their UX development approach.

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Ready to Give High-Performance Low-Code a Try?

To explore more about OutSystems’ no lock-in architecture, check out our additional documentation.


1 How to Mitigate Vendor Lock-In, Technical Debt and Security Risks of Low-Code Development, by Jason Wong, Gartner 2022.