Technology generally is most powerful when the largest number of people can easily access it. With cloud computing, most organizations are hamstrung because they still require the skills of a professional programmer to build anything that has any meaningful business value.
This has created a lot of demand within some segments of the channel for application development services. But the dependency on professional developers also has served to limit the potential size of the overall market, because professional developers are perennially in short supply.
Now we’re starting to see the emergence of new classes of rapid application development (RAD) tools, designed to allow organizations to build cloud applications without requiring the skills of a professional developer.
Mendix, for example, recently unfurled a broad range of RAD tools in the cloud. Similarly, SAP just unveiled a set of RAD tools for the SAP HANA in-memory computing platform running in the cloud, while IBM recently previewed a set of RAD tools it plans to unveil later this year that will run on top of the IBM Bluemix platform.
Now Mendix is trying to take those capabilities to market with the help of the channel. The company has rolled out a channel program under which it is making tools, training and reusable code available to its partners.
Mark Rogers, vice president of Business Development at Mendix, says Mendix is trying to enable partners to build a whole range of applications for customers in a fraction of the time and cost of a professional developer. Many of those applications, Rogers said, will be developed by Mendix partners working directly with line-of-business (LOB) executives rather than internal IT organizations, which may not have the time or resources available to develop a particular cloud application. Mendix believes these RAD tools will lead to the rise of a new class of “citizen developers.”
Of course, LOB executives tend to be a little too busy to build applications. Mendix is betting that many of them will turn to their partners to build those applications. Instead of professional programming skills, the most prized attribute of those partners will be the business process expertise they can apply to any given application. In that regard, a much greater percentage of the traditional channel suddenly is a lot more relevant in the age of the cloud.
Beyond managing infrastructure and application integration, thus far much of the channel has been shut out of the cloud opportunity. But with the emergence of RAD tools in the cloud that make it a whole lot easier to build applications at a much higher level of abstraction, the overall balance of power in the cloud is about to tilt decidedly more in favor of the channel.