When I was tasked with writing a post about the ins and outs of stress and reliability testing and monitoring of low code/no code platforms, it became clear that this topic could turn into a TL;DR as a single post, after a couple of days of researching. So we decided to split it up. Part 1 is intended as a (very) high level intro into the world of low code/no code applications, which will be henceforth referred to as LC/NC to keep this piece in the spirit of LC/NC and save some bytes.
If your teams have already gone down the LC/NC rabbit hole some time ago and you are already familiar with the concepts and major players in this space, then Part 2 is probably more for you. Otherwise, I’ll try to keep this as lightweight as possible. Just enough to set the context before diving into the performance, reliability testing and monitoring considerations-particularly, as they relate to LC/NC.
Low Code/No Code Platforms, the What and the Who
LC/NC, the latest twist on a decades-old story in IT: “The Disruptive New Technology That Came To Town”. One of my first experiences with this happened longer ago than I care to say. Much web development was still done in command line editors, then commercial GUI HTML editors began to emerge. “Who would want to give up the control and flexibility of building pages in Vi or EMACS?” people would ask. The answer was quite a few people actually. Did that mean the end of the road for the typical CLI unix hack? Not at all. Were professions like graphical editors and IDEs here to stay? You bet. LC/NC seems familiar in these respects. In my opinion, some skill sets will see less demand over time. However, new skills profiles are emerging, as of right now, to support the LC/NC phenomenon.
I don’t pretend to be an expert in these areas but have clocked about a year and a half working with low code platforms of customers, including one platform which Measureworks builds and maintains on behalf of a client. To me, low code has meant a modular approach to application building where it’s possible to extend the existing building blocks or create custom ones when those out of the box do not fill all requirements. No code on the other hand seems to be based on black box, drag and drop modules that are generally not extendable or customizable although this is admittedly a second-hand impression. The former seem optimized to enable existing dev teams to build more, faster while no code is likely targeting the “citizen developer” market, i.e. those with little or no development experience.
Based on the above assumptions and my own experience and impressions I’ve boiled LC/NC primary attributes into 3 buckets:
- Platforms intended to work CI/CD by design and to enable dev teams to greatly increase productivity while lowering learning curves with among other things lots of abstraction.
- Platforms intended to enable the “citizen developer” to build apps and utilities with little or no coding experience with black-box type abstraction.
LC/NC platforms can contain any mix of the above three attributes, with plenty of overlap between players. Platforms that are too heavy on marketing seem to be more likely to cause budget overages, because a lot of custom code needs to be built by specialists when use cases go a little off-piste from what the platform provides out of the box. Hence, just like every other type of software, performing due diligence to ensure a platform is fit for your purposes and remains as crucial as ever.
This section could literally fill pages and pages with who offers what for which sectors, SaaS, self-hosted, in what flavors etc. There are parties specialized in health care, finance, government, e-commerce, you name it. If it’s an area that already exists as a specialized software market, there’s probably one or more LC/NC providers active. This is especially true when:
a) Commercial off the shelf software tends to require a high degree of customization, and/or;
b) The rate of innovation and/or change in the applications tends to be high.
During my research, I read a lot of papers from parties like Gartner and Forrester and if you would like to dig deeper into this particular topic, I recommend you to do the same. They’re pretty easy to find. Just search for top low code/no code/ecommerce platforms etc. Vendors who had a high score in a particular report will often offer copies for free for the usual price of giving up your work email address.
These IT research and consultancy companies are pretty restrictive of what you share from a report, which is why you don’t see borrowed quotes and graphics in this piece. However, one observation I made in the last available reports I could find from a company well known for, let’s call them “Enchanted Corners”, the reports on both top e-commerce platforms and top LC/NC platform had zero overlap, even though many established ecomm platforms are aggressively moving into the low code space. Interesting..
Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should
I’d like to close the first part with a bit of advice. Are you or your employer evaluating whether LC/NC would be a good fit for your business? Most sources I read seemed to have a variation of the following advice. If the available commercial, off the shelf options will fill the requirements with less than 25-30% customization, then you may be better off sticking with off the shelf solutions. That said, I have come across plenty of situations where following this guideline could steer you straight into the LC/NC world.
Do you or your employer want to go down the LC/NC rabbit hole? Then you’ll definitely want to read part 2 in this series. We’ll look into areas of performance and reliability management and testing related to LC/NC applications.