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How low-code can fit into the DevOps culture
20 Jul 2020

How low-code can fit into the DevOps culture

The digital transformation drive has resulted in better and faster software development needs. The faster development needs have resulted in increased demand for a talent pool that is capable enough to deliver what is expected. However, you may not always have the resources or the time for it. Application development is not everyone’s cup of tea. Especially, not all of us like or have to play around with the coding part. So, what is the best way to deal with this? And the answer to this could be low-code development.

Low-code development is an approach that provides developers with the ability to build applications rapidly by minimizing the efforts of hand-coding to cope-up with the software demands. It normally involves a visual or graphical user interface comprising wizards, templates, and a drag-and-drop facility to facilitate software development. With low code, the traditional approach to write the code line-by-line gets eliminated, and the setup and deployment part is becoming swifter than ever. All you need to do is define the logic and flow. And TADA! The code will be produced, thereby reducing the intricacy of the application development process. There is still scope for improvement but the low-code platforms come in handy when it comes to creating apps related to business process management, project management, database management, innovation applications, etc.

I am sure that the idea of speed excites everyone. Organizations are no exception. They aim to create applications rapidly. With automation and the tools that come with it, we have been able to accelerate the slow and manual processes involved in the development, deployment, and integration phases. And with certain cultural change that involves better collaboration from the Dev and Ops teams, this can be taken to the next level. Yes, you guessed it right. I am talking about combining DevOps and low code. While DevOps is mostly about a cultural shift, low-code is a family of tools that rightly increases the benefits of agile. Low code reduces the focus on the coding part, and DevOps means effective collaboration. And the result of combing these two means increased speed of development and deployment. Let’s see what happens when these two meet.

When low-code meets DevOps:

Now that you know, both low-code and DevOps have a common motive. Let’s check out how low-code app development platforms can be useful for DevOps to achieve the best outcomes.

  • Bridging the gap between growing talent needs and available pool: With low-code, even novice or aspiring coders/developers can easily build as well as modify the processes without even having to write the complex lines of code involved in the traditional app development methodologies. Not only this but with low-code, your highly skilled developers can focus on core projects. This means you have a part of the workforce focusing on development which is now relatively faster and easy, while the other part is focusing on other complex and vital aspects.
  • Expediting application development: Low-code makes it easy to create application builds that are easily accessible and not very complex. It speeds up the complete development and deployment process thus significantly reducing the timelines from months to days and from weeks to hours.
  • Consistency - from development to deployment: Low-code platforms can integrate easily with programming tools that automate the application deployment. Besides, they can assist in some of the vital processes in any DevOps culture, such as version control, build validation, QA, etc. Having one platform that can provide all this with ‘no’ or ‘low’ code can increase the speed of DevOps teams and, at the same time, reduce the overall complexity. This means that the developers don't have to worry about the compatibility part as the app gets deployed in the same traditional fashion, because you might be worried that the app is created by a non-developer. The low-code platform easily gets integrated with the organization's workflow. There isn't any risk of disruption involved and it makes the teams confident.

To understand how low-code is slowly becoming part of the development, you can see how some of the major players are focusing their efforts on low-code platforms. Over the last few years, some organizations are either made advancements or have already started making low-code environments an integral part of their development processes. The main goal is to be able to create, test, and deploy a variety of applications to obtain good results and better business opportunities faster than before. For example, Microsoft has already started bringing low-code platforms to DevOps. Microsoft has combined low-code scheme and DevOps with a major focus on three components. They have followed this approach to their new class of tools, which includes Power Apps. Power Apps is a platform as a service with which you can create applications using your browser. Let’s see what those three components are:

  • Build: For Azure DevOps, a certain set of build tools are being examined by Power Apps, whose purpose would be to eliminate the scripts that are downloaded manually. These scripts are usually used to manage the application lifecycle. Thus, the efforts to download scripts manually by the developers are automatically removed with the help of these specific build tasks.
  • Test: With the testing features, you can easily manage end-to-end testing and the developers can add, manage, and organize test cases and validate new functionalities easily. For example, you can automate UI testing of model-driven apps and Dynamics 365 with the EasyRepo framework.
  • Monitor: The monitoring feature identifies the existing and potential errors and enhances performance. One of these monitoring features used in the Canvas Studio can help in debugging by checking the network trace calls to see the data returned and related errors.

You can read more about some of the interesting stuff that Microsoft is doing on the low code front, especially about Power Apps, in more detail here.

Some of the leading low-code development platforms include Appian, Mendix, OutSystems, Salesforce Lightning, Microsoft PowerApps, and Zoho Creator. Appian’s intelligent automation platforms assist the organizations to build smart applications to improve business functioning, customer engagement, and productivity of the workforce. Another tool Mendix provides a platform that supports application development for any device and has a private cloud, public cloud, and on-premises deployment as well. With OutSystems you can develop applications at an unbelievable speed and you can use it to create mobile apps, web apps, and enterprise-grade applications. Salesforce Lightning provides you with a platform to build mobile apps with advanced security features, and you can choose from custom or standard components. If you are using Microsoft’s PowerApps then you can extend your app capabilities with pro-developer extensibility. It is quite a powerful tool with a less complex UI and has rich features. Zoho Creator is another interesting platform that allows building applications with minimal coding and time as well as effort.

The primary aim of all the cultural or practical changes in IT is to produce applications faster. DevOps works on the theory of continuous everything, which means all the elements in your development process should be involved in an efficient way to allow these continuous improvements. With the low-code, you can incorporate almost any developer irrespective of the level of skill because low-code enables him/her with a simplified development process. The rising demands are not something to be worried about but are to be taken as opportunities, and practices like DevOps and low-code are the right channels that can help you efficiently leverage those opportunities. So, the earlier you adopt the better you will establish yourselves in the market.

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