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Developer shortage fuels rise in low-code/no-code platforms

Halfway through 2022, interest in low-code/no-code platforms is not slowing down. Experts say the developer shortage is one of the biggest factors as companies continue to invest.

Low-code/no-code platforms and tools continue their rise to prominence, tackling the professional developer shortage with a low barrier to entry.

More than a quarter of the senior-level developers surveyed in June 2021 reported that their organization develops applications using citizen developers and low-code platforms, according to Forrester Research's "Low-Code Platforms for Business Developers, Q4 2021" report.

That trend has gained more momentum as companies head into fall 2022. This year has seen a rise in the demand for low-code/no-code platforms because of the professional developer shortage, said John Bratincevic, analyst at Forrester and co-author of the report. Most companies either have or are planning to have a formal low-code citizen developer program or strategy to train noncoders to become dedicated, professional developers, he said.

"This is a massive trend and even more relevant than when we wrote the report," Bratincevic said. "How to establish, govern and scale citizen development is our No. 1 low-code inquiry question from Forrester clients."

API management and cloud-native application delivery

Low-code platforms for API management, which is the process of securely creating, overseeing and controlling APIs, and cloud-native application delivery, which moves applications to the cloud, are increasing in popularity, said Jason English, analyst and chief marketing officer at analyst firm Intellyx.

"While the underlying architectures are very complex and changing in nature, simplifying integrations and logic in a modular, drag-and-drop way and using declarative methods can save developers time and lower the barrier to entry for short-staffed IT teams," English said.

Contenders in the space include the open source WSO2 middleware platform and API management platform Gravitee.

Monolithic to microservices conversion

This year has seen an increase in conversion from monolithic apps to microservices, English said, with Intellyx seeing lots of energy and investments around modernizing enterprise monoliths -- large systems with a single code base deployed as one unit.

These modernizations involve using AI routines -- repetitive code sequences that are automated using AI -- and easy-to-use job and observability dashboards to convert them into microservice-ready assets, English said.

Notable platforms that can transform monolithic apps into microservices include CloudFrame, which transforms legacy COBOL applications into cloud-native Java, and vFunction, which automatically converts complex Java applications into microservices. Another contender, BMC, focuses on transforming the entire mainframe environment -- including application development, cybersecurity, data management and storage -- to cloud and open source environments.

How to establish, govern and scale citizen development is our No. 1 low-code inquiry question from Forrester clients.
John BratincevicAnalyst, Forrester Research

However, app modernization is far from smooth sailing. While 92% of software and architecture leaders are currently planning or actively modernizing their apps, 80% of respondents to a vFunction survey who attempted app modernization saw their projects fail, according to its July 2022 report written in collaboration with Wakefield Research, a market research consultancy.

Dawn of AI code completion bots

Almost all development tools will include an AI bot by the end of the year, Forrester predicted in its "2022 Predictions: Software Development" report published last November.

That forecast is gaining momentum with back-to-back releases in the last few months, including Amazon CodeWhisperer, Tabnine and Microsoft's GitHub Copilot.

Code completion bots such as Copilot treat code like a natural language, translating comments into code and inferring developer intent, said Ryan J. Salva, vice president of product at GitHub. This results in more automation and removing some of the manual labor required for coding, he said.

While these tools won't create more citizen developers, they do offer expert programmers a way to identify optimal coding practices and might also attract more beginner programmers, said Diego Lo Giudice, vice president and analyst at Forrester.

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