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Mendix 8 to build enterprise apps at the speed of ideas

It’s once again time to take a rare break from coding and share my impression of the two best things announced at the Mendix World 2019 conference, namely Mendix 8 and the Mansystems SMART Digital Factory.

It’s been three years since my last post on this topic. That was right after when Mendix 7 was launched at Mendix World 2016. At that time, I made some predictions concerning where low-code application development platforms were heading next. I’m pleased to say those predictions have borne out with the arrival of Mendix 8, so naturally as part of this blog I’m going to make some additional predictions about what might come next.

Of course, I’m not going to make any guarantees concerning the accuracy of those predictions. But before we get to those prognostications, we should take a minute to appreciate how far we’ve come with the arrival of Mendix 8 and the Mendix SMART Digital Factory.

KEEPING IT SIMPLE

Even before the launch of Mendix 7, it was apparent a “silver bullet” described in an earlier blog post would be needed to drive a level of disruption that would be needed to drive a tenfold increase in the rate at which applications are developed. Back then I reminded everyone what F.P Brooks said about complexity way back in 1975 when his “Mythical Man Month” essays on software engineering were originally published.

 “Complexity is the business we are in, and complexity is what limits us.”

To address this paradox, I believe wholeheartedly in the radical simplicity philosophy espoused by Einstein.

“Everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler.”

My personal interpretation of that advice is that software engineering needs to be all about radical simplification, automation, higher levels of abstraction, and reusability. The software development platform, for example, should support refactoring in the fastest way possible because, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once observed, everything changes, or as he put it “Panta rhei.”

With that context in mind, let’s see what Mendix 8 has to offer.

MENDIX 8

  • By giving citizen developers a dedicated no code environment in the form of Mendix Studio to build applications that is safe, simple and easy to comprehend, Mendix 8 dramatically expands the potential pool of developers that can build applications. Based on the same low-code tools Mendix previously made available in previous generations, Mendix Studio and Studio Pro for professional developers take abstraction using Mendix modeling tools to a whole new level.
  • Mendix 8 for the first time is bringing artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to modeling starting with predicting the next best action a developer should take. Eventually, that capability will become a full-blown digital assistant guiding developers through every step of the application development process.
  • Mendix 8 builds on an existing partnership with SAP to add support for the high performance in-memory SAP Hana database.
  • Mendix 8 data hub will remove in many cases the need to rely on boilerplate code to integrate to Mendix microservice by taking advantage of a remote entity concept that has been added to the platform.
  • Now that Mendix is part of Siemens, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see support for the Mindsphere IoT platform in Mendix 8.
  • Mendix 8 also makes it possible to build mobile applications that run natively on the platform they are deployed on. This is a huge step forward for mobile application development using a low-code platform.

Put it all together and it’s clear there are three big Mendix 8 takeaways that need to be fully appreciated:

  • Thanks to the platform becoming more accessible to citizen developers, the number of developers that can build applications has been dramatically expanded.
  • Support for multiple cloud environments has been enhanced, so any enterprise can choose how to deploy Mendix.
  • Off the shelf solutions from a Mendix AppStore are now available for SAP, Siemens and AI add-on modules.

Now, let’s consider how Mansystems is building a Digital Factory on top of the Mendix 8 platform.

SMART Digital Factory

In 2016 Mansystems introduced application testing suite (ATS) and application performance management (APM) tools in support of Mendix 7. Delivered via the cloud, these tools are inherently extensible using open application programming interfaces (APIs).

As awesome as those tools are, we looked to see how we could leverage their extensibility to drive radical simplification across both application development and deployment. Our goal is nothing less than providing every Mendix customer with a framework through which they can quickly build applications using a consistent set of processes that provides IT teams with visibility into and control over every step of the way. To achieve that goal, I’m proud to share with you some of the great strides we made building a SMART Digital factory by providing:

  • An automated code review tool that tests code against a library of best practices in a way that both saves time and increases quality.
  • A security scan tool to give developer feedback on security issues right at the point they commit code.
  • A load testing tool to give developers the means to stress their apps and measure their behavior under extreme circumstances.
  • A continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) tool that enables organizations to adopt best DevOps processes for accelerating code development. This tool has plug-and-play access to the Mendix cloud and all SMART Digital Factory tools.

In short, we’re radically automating deployment, peer reviewing and testing functions in a way will radically simplify the lives of developers in a very big way!

LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE

In my original Mendix 7 blog post I focused on three main issues that have now all been addressed:

  • Simplicity
  • Enterprise Scale.
  • Speed Without Compromising Quality

Now, that all those issues have been addressed in Mendix 8, let’s consider the challenges Mendix and partners such as Mansystems might take on next. My own personal wish list would be as follows:

  • Mendix continues to embrace modern microservices to the point where there is maximum control over who precisely can see and change data. There also needs to be support for remote snippets, microflows, and shared re-usable components that further eliminate the need to rely on boilerplate code.
  • Mendix makes it simpler for citizen developers using the no-code tools to work seamlessly with professional developers employing Mendix Studio Pro developers, Hopefully, application designers will even use the Mendix Studio tools to create mockups of the applications they want developers to build.
  • Mendix Assist will be extended to include support for auto-filling of data or helping to sort options lists by providing suggestions concerning which ones to move to the top.
  • Native mobile apps become as simple to build as Mendix Web applications.
  • Best practices as defined by the SMART Digital Factory will both be widely adopted and extended.
  • Mendix will curate and certify the quality of third-party content made available in the Mendix AppStore.
  • Refactoring becomes an engine for innovation rather than an inhibitor it often is today. Refactoring needs to address how to transform existing models into new ones as well as being able to split up modules, entities, microflows using more advanced microservices patterns.

 CONCLUSIONS

In my opinion, the two most important things to remember about Mendix 8 and the SMART Digital Factory are:

Splitting development tools into separate classes for citizen and professional developers is a great way to make it simpler to develop applications for all concerned. This approach not only creates new opportunities for developers; it will also significantly increase the size of the Mendix 8 community

By embracing microservices, Mendix is making it simpler to build complex applications at scale. The SMART Digital Factory from Mansystems provides the means for building high-quality applications at scale that will be much easier to update and support in production environments.

As always, I remain a huge fan of the Mendix platform and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

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Bart Tolen

Bart Tolen has a master of engineering in applied physics and has worked with Mendix since 2010. He is a Mendix MVP, Solution Architect, and specialized in performance. Bart is the thought leader and designer of Mendix APM.