Here are some of the best low-code development platforms for software developers wanting to fuel rapid application modernization and economies of scale.
Independent software vendors (ISVs) face constantly growing technical debt as they struggle to meet the demands of clients seeking to accelerate their own digital transformations. Among the reasons for these challenges is the fact that many ISVs are heavily reliant on underlying technology that is outdated and lacks the agility for developing software applications quickly.
Low-code development platforms (LCDPs) were originally created primarily to meet the needs of citizen developers in enterprises that lacked the in-house expertise needed to build bespoke applications from scratch. However, LCDPs have now evolved to the point where they not only assist with software development, but also transform the entire software delivery process.
Why should software vendors invest in low-code?
ISVs have traditionally been resistant to low-code. After all, as software companies, ISVs pride themselves on having highly skilled teams of developers who are adept at coding and building software products from scratch. The misconception that “real developers” don’t use low code solutions persists to this day, but is far removed from the reality of modern LCDPs.
In fact, today’s LCDPs are perfectly capable of tackling complex business logic and unique application requirements. While they won’t entirely replace traditional software development methodologies any time soon, the value they can offer to ISVs is undeniable. An LCDP not only offers ease of use, but also scale, speed, and substantial cost savings.
These advantages are relevant in any modern business, but doubly so for ISVs for three main reasons:
Many ISVs maintain multiple implementations of their software products for each customer. In an era of constant technological change, maintaining these products can be extremely difficult to the point there is no capacity left to onboard new customers.
Most LCDPs include the functions, features, and standards necessary to maintain applications throughout their entire lifecycles. Industry-leading LCDPs are built with scale in mind with API integrations and no runtime dependencies.
Even for skilled developers, coding from scratch takes time, which is why technical debt is still a major problem. While it’s possible to counter this by reusing pieces of code, the underlying technology is often outdated enough that reuse can only go so far.
Low code can slash the time it takes to develop everyday software applications for customers by as much as 90% when compared to coding from scratch. Maintaining existing applications is also far less burdensome, thereby freeing up time to onboard new customers.
Talented software developers are in enormous demand, and a significant skills gap remains throughout the broader industry. It has never been more expensive to maintain a fully staffed software development team.
While every ISV prides itself on having quality software development talent, low code allows them to maintain leaner teams of professionals. Moreover, by empowering non-specialists and junior programmers, low code reduces expenses, with the savings passed on to clients to create a market edge.
#1. Planet Crust / Corteza
Planet Crust is the creator of and driving force behind Corteza, a Docker-based digital work and low-code development platform for web applications that is almost unique in the sector on account of being 100% free and open source. The platform, which is fully supported and maintained by Planet Crust, relies on open processes, standards, and licenses, which means it can cater to the needs of all organizations. Impressively, its Integration Gateway lets you connect Corteza with any data source for unparalleled control and flexibility, while it’s liberal Apache 2.0 license allows for complete digital sovereignty in a way that other LCDPs cannot.
- 100% open-source and free forever
- 100% API centric and extensible
- BPMN 2.0 compatible workflows
- Import and export complete app configurations
- Full ownership of all software created
Who should use Corteza?
Corteza is an ideal choice for ISVs owing to its open-source nature, but ISVs can also partner with Planet Crust, the primary developer and maintainer of the project, to outsource their operational risk and get the developer support and hosting services they need to innovate rapidly.
As a fully open-source project, Corteza is available to install on your own server for free, however, Planet Crust offers specialized Software Provider support for Corteza and works closely with its customers to establish and execute its roadmap. For vendors seeking a cloud-based solution, Planet Crust offers managed, cloud-hosted pricing plans starting at $3.74 per user per month (depending on the number of users) for enterprise subscribers or else can help vendors build their own clouds on Corteza.
Appian combines intelligent automation with low-code software development to accelerate the development of enterprise applications and workflows. Being one of the biggest players in the low-code industry, it is the platform of choice for dozens of global enterprises. It allows users to connect any data sources while meeting the demands of information security and regulatory compliance.
- Supports mobile app development
- Integrates with IoT devices
- Includes prebuilt UI frameworks
- Extensible via integration SDK
- One-click deployment
Who should use Appian?
ISVs can partner with Appian to source new business opportunities and develop new services and applications for their customers. There are partner programs tailored to the needs of ISVs, MSPs, and OEMs.
The Appian Community Edition is available for free and has a 15-user limit. The fully featured Application package costs $90 per user per month for a minimum number of 100 users. For the Platform or Unlimited package, you will need to contact Appian for a custom quote.
Mendix supports application development for every type of device, and it is one of the pioneers of AI-powered software project management. It also provides offline working capabilities and can be installed either on-premises or in a private or public cloud. Intelligent automation is one of the platform’s key selling points, and it can be adapted to automate a raft of routine business processes.
- Build-in collaboration tools
- Extensible with APIs or pre-built connectors
- Curated library of 400+ building blocks
- AI-powered development assistant
- Cloud-native scaling
Who should use Mendix?
The Mendix ISV partner program provides an intuitive three-step process by which software vendors showcase their concepts, transform those concepts into solutions using Mendix, and then, if approved, sell and support them on the Mendix marketplace.
Mendix pricing starts at €50 per month for up to 5 users and one app. The Standard package costs €800 per month or €2000 for unlimited app development.
#4. Microsoft Power Apps
Microsoft Power Apps makes it easy to build professional business apps with drag-and-drop simplicity and pre-built machine learning and AI components. Being deeply integrated with the tech giant’s broader technology ecosystem and able to connect to hundreds of external data sources, developers can easily extend functionality. Users can also leverage the Azure cloud platform to scale their apps to the needs of their enterprises.
- Develop web-based apps
- Create and connect AI models
- Native integration with SharePoint and Dynamics 365
- Build and certify customer connectors
- List your solutions on Microsoft AppSource
Who should use Microsoft PowerApps?
Power Apps is one of the more obvious choices for any ISV that already works primarily with Microsoft’s products, especially those who use the Azure cloud computing platform. Microsoft offers a partner program that allows ISVs to sell their apps on the AppSource marketplace.
Microsoft Power Apps plans start at $5 per user, per app, per month. For unlimited apps, the rate increases to $20 per month. Pay-as-you-go subscriptions are also available, though they require an Azure subscription.
OutSystems leverages visual, model-driven software development and AI-powered assistants to accelerate the entire application lifecycle. It is a cloud-native platform with a strong focus on responsive app design for mobile users. The platform also incorporates in-app feedback to allow users to share their experiences and suggest improvements. Thus, OutSystems works especially well in the context of change management.
- AI-assisted visual development tools
- Strong focus on mobile app development
- Enterprise-grade security and compliance
- In-app feedback and collaboration
- Scalable microservices architecture
Who should use OutSystems?
OutSystems can help modernize the way technology firms build apps and re-platform existing systems. The vendor’s ISV and MSP partner programs facilitate flexible product delivery and incorporate turnkey marketing plans and comprehensive support.
Customers can launch their first app for free for up to 100 end users. The Standard plan starts at $1,500 per month and allows customers to build and run multiple apps for their employees, customers, or partners.
#6. Visual LANSA
Visual LANSA provides a powerful integrated development environment for creating desktop, web, and mobile applications. What makes Visual LANSA unique in the low-code market is how it combines low code with traditional application development in the same LDE. This lets developers tackle more complex challenges and integrations while also taking advantage of the shorter cycle times of low code for everyday development.
- Create desktop, web, and mobile apps
- Ability to write code within the IDE
- Runs on IBM i, Windows, and Linux
- Flexible cloud-based or on-premises deployments
- Active repository engine for defining business rules
Who should use Visual LANSA?
Combining both low code and traditional software development, Visual LANSA is a one-of-a-kind solution tailored to the needs of IT managers, ISVs, and full-stack developers. ISVs are free to build and sell solutions anywhere they want when using the LANSA framework.
Visual LANSA offers a 90-day free trial for non-commercial use. Paid subscription plans start at $999 per month for one developer and two development environments and $4,999 for the Standard plan. Tailored Premium plans are also available upon request.
#7. Zoho Creator
Although best known for its CRM software, Zoho’s technology ecosystem has expanded to incorporate the Zoho Creator development platform. The platform features visual workflows, integrated analytics and reporting, and connectors for more than 600 third-party tools. Every app built on the platform comes with native iOS and Android counterparts for multi-platform accessibility.
- Import data with AI-assisted migration tools
- Model app structure and data flows
- Cross-functional data analytics
- Readymade integrations for 600+ apps
- Create custom UI components and Java libraries
Who should use Zoho Creator?
The Zoho Creator partner program is constantly expanding, with new ISVs joining up to create sell customized apps to their own customers. The platform is best suited to consultancy firms and ISVs that specialize in deploying and advancing Zoho-based technology environments.
The Professional edition costs €25 per month, billed annually, and allows for the creation of up to five apps. The Ultimate edition costs €400 per month and supports unlimited apps and up to 10 users.
#8. Salesforce Lightning
Salesforce Lightning is the low-code platform underpinning the industry-leading Salesforce CRM. The huge and constantly growing library of apps, connectors, and other tools, available through the AppExchange marketplace, is one of its major selling points. The Lightning App Builder facilitates quick and simple app creation and customization by way of a drag-and-drop interface and numerous reusable components — including those created by third parties.
- Create personalized per-user experiences
- Automate workflows across connected systems
- Connect external data sources
- Secure and compliant testing environments
- Customize pages with drag-and-drop actions
Who should use Salesforce Lightning?
The Salesforce partner program lets ISVs tap into one of the largest online marketplaces for enterprise software apps. It supports the entire process, including development and design, selling and marketing, and customer service and support.
The Platform Starter edition costs $25 per user per month, while Platform Plus costs $100 per user per month and provides access to 110 custom objects and the Lightning Console.
Which platform should you choose?
Many software vendors believe that low code is only suitable for basic applications and citizen developers. However, while it is true that many solutions cater to small businesses, the LCDP vendors covered here all offer enterprise-grade solutions. The challenge lies in choosing the most suitable development platform that can accommodate the unique needs of ISVs.
The most important consideration for ISVs when choosing an LCDP is how much control the platform grants them. Most LCDPs are closed source, which usually means that users don’t have full intellectual property rights over what they build in the platform. Many of those that do accommodate ISVs only do so through official partner programs, in which case you may only be able to sell your software products on the vendor’s own marketplace.
Corteza is one of the few exceptions. Being entirely open source, software vendors can use it to develop their own applications while enjoying all the universal benefits of low code. Vendors retain full ownership of everything they build in the platform, so they can freely sell it into their own customers through any channels they wish.
Planet Crust is the creator and driving force behind Corteza, a 100% open-source low-code software development platform that lets you import data from any source and use intuitive drag-and-drop tools to create custom applications for your unique business needs. Get started for free today.