Agile Platform Adds Cloud, Mobile Support

Agile Web apps toolmaker Outsystems has released the latest version of its Agile Platform environment. Version 6.0 of the platform comes with new tools for mobile development, an enhanced UI and a series of pre-built business apps designed for easy customizaton.

The San Ramon, Calif.-based company's Agile Platform is a model-driven development (MDD) environment for building Web applications that automate business processes and bridge gaps among legacy apps, explained Mike Jones, Outsystems' vice president of worldwide marketing.

"Those types of applications tend not to have really well-defined requirements," Jones said. "Users know that they want to bring these two pieces of disparate application functionality together, but until they can see it, they can't envision how a system might work."

Agile Platform combines a visual IDE called ServiceStudio, an environment for creating connectors to existing enterprise systems, a runtime platform and a centralized management console. It supports development on a standard .NET or Java architecture. And thought the platform itself is methodology agnostic, the onboard tools are SCRUM-based.

"We do practice and preach an Agile approach -- an iterative approach," Jones said. "And we've extended it for distributed teams, because most of our customers have developers in different parts of the world. Less than 1 percent of our customer base still uses a waterfall-type approach, and even they have sprint reviews. For our product and the type of apps we build -- especially Web-based business applications -- Agile makes a ton of sense."

Outsystems began tweaking its Agile Platform to accommodate cloud-based deployments last year. With this release, the platform becomes both a cloud-based deployment and production environment, evolving into a complete Platform as a Service (PaaS).

"We've had cloud-type capabilities for some time," Jones said. "But with this release we're making it possible to, with a single click, not only get a license to our product, but also get all the background infrastructure with the backups and all the things you need to do product and deployment in the cloud. The cloud takes care of the infrastructure; the platform handles the development and deployment. And developers get to focus on building their apps."

Agile Platform 6.0 is also designed to automate the development of mobile apps through a new Go Mobile Initiative. The initiative aims to simplify the creation of apps for iPhone, Android devices, and Windows Phone 7, allowing developers to build mobile Web apps with the look and feel of any type of native application, Jones said.

"There's still a lot of immaturity in the mobile/mobile-Web space," Jones said. "We're simplifying a process that is still maddeningly complicated for most developers."

This version of the Agile Platform also comes with a suite of "true open source" business applications, available from the new apps@outsystems portal page. There are currently a dozen free biz apps available, ranging from expense trackers and time sheet programs to sales, ecommerce and a Web site template.

"Not only are these apps free to play with and change," said Jones, "but, because they were built in a model-driven development environment, you can change them without a PhD in the coding language."

The apps can be test driven from the Web site, Jones said. The company provisions a sandbox in the cloud loaded with sample data and logins from different personas. Clicking on an "Install and Change" button installs the Service Studio IDE on your desktop, provisions a cloud trial server, and launches the application and a tutorial. These are complex, full-function apps, Jones insists, not "toy apps."

"We bring a model-driven development, which makes it very easy to build and deploy in the cloud," said Jones. "But also, we generate native code, so you're running in a .NET or Java stack -- your choice -- and that means it's very portable. The lock-in challenge you see with some PaaS offerings go away when you use Outsystems."

The company says there have been 1,900 unique "tries" of the apps so far.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].