Mendix is extending its all-in-one, low-code platform with Industry Clouds that include a variety of components and predesigned building blocks aimed at easing development of applications for industries including manufacturing, financial services, retail and healthcare.
The Siemens subsidiary announced the new offerings at its annual Mendix World event last week, along with a range of products and services including new AI features for its low-code PaaS, an updated Data Hub designed to allow developers to more easily connect to a variety of off-the-shelf and custom data sources, and new Smart AppServices to digitalise and automate business workflows.
Low-code and no-code platforms are often used by companies to help developers — including so-called citizen developers with little or no formal app development raining —to rapidly develop applications and cut labor costs.
According to Gartner, nearly 75 per cent of large enterprises will be using at least four low-code development tools for both IT application development and citizen development initiatives by 2024.
“It is a growing trend within many enterprises to empower business technologists and citizen developers with low-code tools that will allow these enterprises to rapidly develop required digital solutions,” Gartner associate principal research analyst Akash Jain said.
The COVID-19 crisis showed that companies that adopted low-code approach to development adjusted more quickly and effectively to the crisis than businesses that relied solely on conventional development, proving that rapid app development and constant iteration of software have become table stakes for competitive enterprises, according to a recent Forrester Wave report.
Industry Clouds target key business sectors
To help facilitate rapid app development for key industries, the new Mendix Industry Clouds will feature reusable templates that focus on addressing challenges specific to the targeted business sectors. According to Mendix CTO Johan den Haan, Industry Clouds will help form an industry-focused, low-code community as it will incorporate APIs, Mendix AppServices, connectors to data sources, and offer ways for its community of 250,000 "makers" to share app development and industry knowledge.
Mendix for Manufacturing and Mendix for Financial Services are available now. The financial cloud offers templates for Credit Rating, Claims Management, and Portfolio Management, while the industry cloud includes templates for Smart Warehousing, Predictive Maintenance, and Smart Workforce Planning.
Industry Clouds for sectors including healthcare, education and the public sector will be released next year.
Mendix also announced an AppServices Framework, available now for ISVs and partners who want to sell their services on the Mendix marketplace. The framework includes provisioning, metering, and billing. A new Solutions Platform for ISVs includes IP protection on top of integrated metering and billing, as well as tools to extend and maintain low-code-developed applications.
Mendix offers new AI, Data Hub services
A new Mendix suite of Smart AppServices is designed for those building applications with digital business workflows and offers capabilities for document data capture and cognitive services such as language and sentiment analysis, including the ability to understand conversations that take place via messages. The suite can be used to enhance applications acquired through the Mendix Marketplace.
According to Gartner's Jain, low-code capabilities are increasingly being utilised for automating business workflows owing to their AI capabilities such as optical character recognition, natural language processing (NLP), and sentiment analysis.
The new Mendix capabilities should enhance the ability of the company's platform to quickly offer value to developers, said Thomas Boogert, strategic planner and ICT product owner at Secrid, a Dutch wallet maker and Mendix customer.
"One of the biggest strengths of developing with Mendix lies in the startup phase of developing an app. Where a code solution would take weeks or months to setup the basics of an application and security, Mendix only takes a couple of days," Boogert said. "The announcement of the AppServices Framework and Industry Solutions enable us to start building actual business value with Mendix even faster."
Den Haan said that Mendix has also updated its metadata repository to its second version, Data Hub 2.0, with new features such as business events and a connector framework including connectors for common data sources such as Dropbox, Slack, Microsoft Sharepoint and Dynamics, and Salesforce.
Business events will record and catalog data events happening throughout the enterprise. According to den Haan, these events can be used to make applications faster.
Mendix enhances automation capabilities
“A full view of all business events in the enterprise, coupled with the ability to manage and trigger event-driven applications, is a key ingredient in automating business processes in a truly intelligent way,” he said. Users will be able to connect off-the-shelf and custom data sources across the enterprise.
"Even though the expansion of Data Hub is not that relevant for us yet, as we only have two applications up and running, we already see that a lot of the budget is spent on integrating different apps," Boogert said. "Expanding these capabilities is helping Mendix become the core of larger corporations IT landscapes."
A new AI capability slated for availability later this year is Page Bot, part of Mendix’s AI-based service called Assist. In combination with the previously available Logic Bot and Performance Bot, it looks into instances of application development and ensures that apps follow architectural patterns. Page Bot will assist developers in UI and UX development, after learning from anonymised data sets.
The company also announced a separate machine learning kit for Mendix, available later this year, that will allow organisations to incorporate custom machine learning models into their applications.