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A few weeks ago, Tarun Sukhani, founder and CTO of Abundent, a digital transformation and edtech solutions provider, caused quite a stir with his LinkedIn post that labelled low-code, no-code (LCNC) as “largely a gimmick” (with regard to scaling and deployment). Using a bold term like ‘gimmick’ was bound to raise eyebrows, after all, Chris Wanstrath, former CEO of GitHub, had once said, “The future of coding is no coding at all.”
Interestingly, a recent report published by Acumen Research and Consulting highlighted global trends in the low-code (LC) development platform market. Valued at USD 10 billion in 2021, the global LC development platform market is projected to reach USD 159 billion by 2030 at a CAGR of 28.8%.
What explains the ‘gimmickry’?
A case study presented by Ishtiaque Zafar, senior software engineer at FINN, a monthly car subscription platform, shows while scaling from 0 to 20,000 car subscriptions in a span of two years, they faced multiple issues due to heavy reliance on LCNC tools like Airtable, Make (formerly Integromat) and Retool. The primary reason for choosing these LCNC tools was their ease of use. For example, Airtable allows for easy schema changes, quick rollbacks and snapshot recovery. Moreover, anybody could work with them. However, very soon, the database grew to include over 40 tables and a dozen automated workflows, and gave up. In addition, Airtable comes with a limit of 5 requests per second per base. Thus, FINN was facing more than 100 timeouts daily.
That there exist limitations to application scalability on low-code platforms is a fact. Several NCLC platforms like iSymphony, which have been developed by Innominds, while discussing dev-time and run-time scalability offered by LCNC platforms, highlight the limited role of these platforms when it comes to application scalability. The above case study justifies this issue.
Overcoming the scalability issue
Scalability is the ability of an application to adapt to changing organisational needs without compromising on efficiency. For any business, scalability is an important factor as it enables the firm to meet organisational growth and demand.
Most LCNC platforms provide a checklist to ensure run-time and dev-time scalability. However, when it comes to application scalability, these platforms suggest certain ways to ensure the same. According to experts, the focus should be on designing an appropriate architecture and internal processes aligned to an enterprise’s scalability needs. For example, streamlining operations for faster deployment and determining the organisational capacity in terms of number of development teams and number of developer logins allowed on that platform. Then, combining these with LCNC platforms that would support these.
Increasing popularity overlooks the scalability bottlenecks
Notwithstanding the scalability limitation that LCNC platforms suffer from, LCNC has been gaining popularity for quite some time, driven by the acceleration of digital transformation. As digital transformation gathers pace, the need for non-developers to handle business applications increases due to the dearth of software developers. According to estimates from the US Labor Department, the global shortage of software engineers may reach 85.2 million by 2030.
Such has been the popularity of LCNC platforms that it has given rise to business movements like Citizen Developers. The movement enables project managers and non-developers to create applications using LCNC platforms. In fact, organisations like the Project Management Institute conduct dedicated courses for citizen developers. Studies suggest that 70% of low-code users with no prior experience have learned these in less than a month.
Today, no-code platforms like E42 are being used to create multifunctional cognitive agents to automate various roles and processes within business organisations, both large and small. “AI workers built on the E42 Platform take over the roles and processes, and these agents collaborate with each other to make the enterprise intelligent,” Animesh Samuel, co-founder and CEO of E42, told AIM.
When asked about the scalability issue with LCNC platforms, Samuel said, “The platform supports distributed computing architecture with auto-scale where the infra scales as per the demand. The scalability of the AI workers created on the platform ranges from a small organisation automating a specific low-volume process to some of the largest organisations in the world with millions of transactions per day.”
Future of no-code and low-code
There can’t be a final word on the debate regarding LCNC platforms. At the same time, LCNC will keep evolving. “They are here to stay and evolve. As human history proves, any kind of automation that relieves humans or helps them move to more value-added aspects of a function will keep evolving. No-code (or low-code) platforms today are creating a fusion of the IT and business-side like never before. No-code platforms are enabling individuals and organisations create solutions with their functional expertise and enable them to focus on their core domain while adding value to the same,” Samuel told AIM.
That said, the most important IT skill nowadays is the ability to discern which technology stack is best for your organisation, notes Sukhani.