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IBM taps Mendix for low-code platform deal

As the market to empower citizen app developers heats up, IBM and Mendix have joined forces to deliver low-code tools for the IBM Cloud.

A pact between IBM and Mendix brings a low-code model to IBM Cloud customers, and widens the battlefield for software toolmakers.

IBM recently inked an agreement to resell and support the Mendix low-code platform on the IBM Cloud, which will allow business users to build applications via a visual drag-and-drop interface rather than write code. Mendix had been available on IBM's Bluemix cloud platform, but IBM did not resell or support it.

As all enterprises undergo digital transformation, they must churn out more applications and services, which can strain the ranks of trained software developers. Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., projects that the U.S. economy alone will suffer a shortage of up to 500,000 developers by 2024. As a result, low-code platforms have grabbed everyone's attention because they let application builders tap into a variety of existing services ready for assembly.

"This is about more than just making your developers productive; it's about bringing your business people into the business of delivering software," said John Rymer, principal analyst at Forrester.

IBM is entrenched with the hardcore developer set, but lacks a low-code platform option in its portfolio to address this demand. Mendix represents another entry point to bring developers to the IBM cloud to build applications.

"IBM needed this in its portfolio," Rymer said.

John Rymer, principal analyst at Forrester ResearchJohn Rymer

IBM and Mendix have joint customers that are keen to build applications using IBM services, especially Watson cognitive services, but these must be more easily consumable in the low-code world, said Hans de Visser, vice president of strategic alliances at Mendix.

"[IBM is] very strong in the private cloud, hybrid and public cloud, [with] the flexibility for customers to move workloads across the different flavors," he said. "More of our customers want to use their services that give rise to emerging technologies like machine learning, IoT, and cognitive services like speech recognition in building new experiences for users."

Everyone's a developer

The low-code model will enable everyone to be a developer in one way or another, even more broadly than spreadsheet macros made users more productive, said Willie Tejada, chief developer advocate at IBM.

This is about more than just making your developers productive; it's about bringing your business people into the business of delivering software.
John Rymeranalyst, Forrester Research

"We're very close to getting to that point for general-purpose programming with these low-code/no-code types of environments," he said.

However, some customers aren't ready to adopt a low-code platform, and instead will wait for a green light from their strategic vendor to try it out, Rymer said. Now they have that from IBM. Meanwhile, Oracle and Microsoft have low-code platforms, and Amazon Web Services is working on a low-code development project. Mendix also has a reseller agreement with SAP, and it runs on Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services but with no resale or support agreements, De Visser said.

Companies such as Salesforce, OutSystems and Mendix established the low-code market and now generate income, but as more established vendors enter the fray the market will likely consolidate, Rymer said.

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