We know model-driven engineering has never been a cool tech so tool vendors in the modeling world have always tried to use different names to sell more. Until recently, they were positioning themselves as agile development platforms, rapid application platforms and the like. Now, the new buzzword seems to be low-code platforms.
This term, apparently coined by Forrester, is defined in the Forrester Wave™: Low-Code Development Platforms, Q2 2016 as:
Platforms that enable rapid delivery of business applications with a minimum of hand-coding and minimal upfront investment in setup, training, and deployment.
Sounds familiar right?. Sure, it tries to include not only model-based approaches (in the broadest sense) but also less powerful tools such as limited drag-and-drop visual editors but, to me, this is just the new marketing attempt to keep selling licenses (we already had the CASE trend, then the UML, the MDE trend, the agile trend,…).
Forrester says that there are ALREADY 42 tools in this “new” market but if you look at the names you’ll quickly recognize some of them such as Mendix or OutSystems, both unsurprisingly classified as the best in this new category of tools.
My advice: if you’re still trying to sell a modeling or a code-generation tool, just rebrand yourself and start selling a low-code platform! All it takes is some HTML modifications on your website and you may start getting noticed. Even if this low-code thing is just a make-up of the traditional MDE sector, once Forrester puts a tag on tool category many people follow suit (just search in google for “low-code” and you’ll see the huge attention this buzzword is getting even from websites like Forbes )
At least, there is a positive takeaway from this. We may have to change the name every few years to keep pushing sales up but modeling tools (or whatever you want to call them) have been an important actor in the software market for a long time, which in itself is an important achievement in this rapidly changing sector. Quoting Grady Booch: “History of software engineering is a rise in the levels of abstraction”. This has been true for the last 40 years and I don’t think will ever change.
Developers (and even citizen developers) want faster ways to build bug-free software. We may not agree on the name but we agree on the need and, more importantly, we agree there is money to be made in this market. It may not be easy and may require good marketing efforts beyond good tools but it’s definitely possible.
ICREA Research Professor at Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (UOC). Leader of the SOM Research Lab focusing on the broad area of systems and software engineering