Wednesday, August 31, 2016

30 Years of Citizen Developers

More than three decades ago, the Rapid Application Development platform known as Magic burst upon the scene and became immediately popular as the PC revolution was in full force.

Glenn Johnson*

Thousands of citizen developers known as “magicians” working on DOS machines created applications quickly and easily accessing ISAM databases and displaying results on green screen monitors. By the mid-1990s, Magic had gone cross-platform and enterprise and global. Its citizen developers had grown-up and were winning all the international development competitions. Suddenly, big businesses started using Magic too and the RAD tool phenomenon of the PC became a mainstay for creating serious business applications that served millions of users and handled billions of dollars in transactions on enterprise servers.

Magic extended its citizen developer approach to application integration as well. Starting in 2003, business analysts could now use “Magic” to connect third-party applications behind the scenes. This RAD approach to application integration began saving companies millions of dollars as they streamlined business processes, unified information and reduced processing errors without hiring a team of point-to-point integration programmers to make it happen.

It is with more than a little amusement then that the Magic community observes the introduction of new “low code” platforms and "click not code" solutions designed to solve a problem that has been largely solved for decades by what has always been known as a “no code” platform. Gartner has invented a new term, “citizen developer” to describe app developers who are basically users that create apps using enterprise approved app platforms.

"Why low code when you can no code?"

For enterprise IT departments considering introduction of low code platforms, a good hard look at a no code platform might provide some reassurance in the form of a proven alternative. The Magic xpa Application Platform and the Magic xpi Integration Platform of today are marvels in terms of their ability to simplify the complexity of underlying environments. Using no code visual interfaces and table driven app creation techniques, a citizen developer can make software and integrate software thanks to several common virtues:

Metadata Driven Development. Why write code to manipulate data when you can instead implement visual business logic directly that creates metadata instructions that can be run as an application? It’s called Magic for a reason: because something special happens behind the curtain; you never see the hard work. You just ask for what you want: “Abracadabra.”

Reusability and the Right Degree of Granularity. Call them objects, components, models, templates, subroutines or services, software that can called and reused by other software is virtuous by reason of its efficiency. Magic’s platforms provide deliver reusability as a core characteristic of their internal architectures and design studio experiences. Apps and integration flows are easily built by leveraging granular objects, components, models and so on. The beauty of the platform is that the granularity of the objects is not so fine as to require constant assembly or so course as to be constrained in their flexibility. With just the right sized building blocks, you can create anything without the effort of coding from scratch.

Event-Driven Architecture. A revolution has occurred in the IT world from an old batch-oriented approach to processing to new event-driven architectures with real-time or near real-time asynchronous processing and simultaneous support for long running processes. In a service-oriented world, the Magic platforms deliver responsive, event-driven environments that allow business applications to respond immediately to requests and changes.

In-Memory Computing. Both Magic xpa and Magic xpi leverage in memory computing techniques through the use of an In-Memory Data Grid. Leveraging virtual spaces of shared memory and processing an active-active clustering occurs whereby performance and operational integrity are fully optimized. Parallelism and redundancy results in elastic scalability and high availability.

These metadata-driven, reusable, event-driven, in-memory application and integration platforms are producing mission critical apps and supporting business critical integration processes. A virtuous platform in the hands of citizen developers can be a beautiful thing. With more than 30 years of expanding use, constant improvement and real-world bullet-proofing, Magic now provides the most advanced application and integration platforms for citizen developers. Why low code when you can no code?

*Glenn Johnson is the senior VP of Magic Software Enterprises Americas.