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Mendix looks to change the low-code landscape

At Mendix World, low-code app dev platform provider Mendix laid out plans to build up its ecosystem of third-party low-code tools in hopes of broadening its appeal to developers.

Mendix has launched a new version of its low-code application development platform along with a plan to help partners create low-code tools, service components and prepackaged systems geared for digital transformation projects.

The Boston company unveiled Mendix 9 (MX9) and the new strategy at its Mendix World Version 2.0 virtual conference this week.

Mendix's growth plan involves three core elements: industry solutions, an upgraded marketplace and a startup program. Industry solutions will deliver templated apps for specific verticals, partners can sell their low-code wares to customers through the refreshed marketplace and the startup program will focus on assisting low-code startups.

The Mendix Marketplace Vendor Program, set for launch early next year,will feature the next generation of what is now known as the Mendix App Store. The new program extends the store with not only tools, but also purpose-built apps, components and more monetization opportunities for independent software vendors (ISVs). In the past year, the AppStore has seen more than 500,000 downloads of its more than 2,500 assets, said Sheryl Koenigsberg, global director of marketing at Mendix.

"For the future success of Mendix, the key question will be how much of that will be limited to the Siemens ecosystem -- or the overall market," said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research, noting that Mendix is owned by Siemens. "Only the future can tell how this will pan out. The outcomes are either a 'Siemens low-code tool' or Siemens becoming a low-code player in the general market, courtesy of Mendix."

New all-in-one tool

The new Mendix 9 platform builds on the company's model-driven development foundation to help developers of all skill sets use Mendix to build apps. Mendix 9 allows developers to integrate enterprise data and taps further into AI and machine learning to help them make the right choices when creating applications.

Sheryl Koenigsberg, global director of marketing, MendixSheryl Koenigsberg

The new release introduces Mendix Data Hub, which pulls data and services into the searchable Mendix Data Hub Catalog. This gives developers a set of metadata that is discoverable from inside Mendix Studio and Studio Pro as drag-and-drop assets.

"Data Hub is a massive differentiator," Koenigsberg said. "Data integration is such an integral part of how developers need to work. It's such an integral part of software development."

Mendix 9 also features a new workflow editor for creating intelligent automation systems built for specific use cases. Included for developer use are workflow templates, a central task manager and preconfigured dashboards to track and manage workflows. In addition, Mendix 9 features React Native technology for building mobile apps.

New AI capabilities

At Mendix World, the company introduced enhanced AI capabilities in the platform to help developers become more productive. The Mendix Assist AI-powered feature gains a new performance bot known as Mendix Performance Assist, which will suggest or automatically implement changes or "next steps" that developers should take in building apps with high performance and quality. These suggestions come from a knowledge base of best practices.

The use of AI in low-code development systems shows promise in terms of simply cutting down the number of steps required to build applications.

We're able to fix bugs in hours and minutes instead of days and weeks.
Paul EdenSenior director of BYU Apps, Brigham Young University

"We're able to fix bugs in hours and minutes instead of days and weeks," said Paul Eden, senior director of BYU Apps at Brigham Young University, in an interview.

And that productivity boost is not even from using Mendix 9, which BYU does not yet have. However, Eden said he looks forward to getting Mendix 9 and tapping into the new AI features, as he currently works with Mendix Assist.

"A lot of our developers use it," Eden said. "I found it to be a nice development speed-up option. I think there's a lot of opportunity for adding AI features, both in the studio and the platform itself."

Artificial intelligence has been successful in enhancing performance and developer productivity in traditional programming, and has had a similar impact on low-code application development.

"I think AI can be very useful as an available application feature, especially when presented in an easy-to-digest way -- i.e., simple, discrete services for common app use cases, like sentiment analysis or language detection," said John Bratincevic, an analyst at Forrester Research. "Presenting these services in a low-code platform is a great way to democratize use of AI."

Git support

Also at Mendix World, Mendix has added support for Git version control so developers can unify their version control systems across platforms.

"We have an app that tracks security alerts and the process of fixing them from GitHub," Eden said. "So when GitHub has a security alert on one of our apps that says some of the third-party dependencies on that app have a security vulnerability, this app helps us manage the process to assign them to the right team and track fixing it."

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