Are you looking for a low-code development platform to transform how you deliver modern web and mobile applications and accelerate digital initiatives? There are a few Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offerings to consider, which have emerged as alternatives to traditional application development approaches.
On the surface, OutSystems and Mendix may seem comparable, since both low-code platforms offer strong support for model-driven development. There are fundamental differences, however, that make Mendix the preferred choice for organizations looking to drive digital transformation from start to scale.
When evaluating low-code platforms like Mendix and OutSystems, it’s tempting to quickly dive into a function & feature comparison. Before you do that, however, first ask yourself what challenge you are looking to address. Then assess whether Mendix or OutSystems will best help you achieve your goals. If you take that deeper dive, you’ll notice that while both low-code platforms offer some similar functionality, the vision and philosophy that drive the company and product strategy are very different.
Our view is that the OutSystems Platform focuses on improving IT productivity with a set of tools for model-driven development and DevOps processes. The platform generates code that is then deployed on a .Net or Java stack, on premises or in the cloud. As many organizations have come to realize, however, there is much more to successful digital transformation than just developer productivity. In fact, despite decades of tools aimed at increasing developer productivity, software project success rates have improved only marginally.
Mendix is the low-code platform to drive digital innovation, enabling business and IT to turn ideas into applications faster and easier than any other approach. Open and enterprise-class, our platform combines business-IT collaboration, visual development, multi-cloud deployment and full application lifecycle support. As a result, cross-functional teams are able to rapidly deliver web, mobile and smart apps and adapt to changing business requirements.
Despite OutSystems’ focus on developers, the platform lacks support of some critical capabilities as you will see below. Mendix in contrast combines outstanding developer support and state-of-the-art open platform technology with an approach that facilitates active involvement of business stakeholders in application projects.
Let’s have a look at the major differences at a glance.
Agile Project Management
The application lifecycle starts when someone has an idea for an application. Being able to define a project, and manage scope and progress in a single environment is key.
Mendix offers built-in agile project management and capture of user stories. The user stories are tracked in the modeler throughout the entire lifecycle of the application. So, it’s fully transparent which user stories are covered by developer activities.
OutSystems provides a template application on their app store Forge, for project tracking and collaboration. This component is not supported by OutSystems. Also, user stories are not tracked in the modeler.
Business & IT Collaboration
Aligning business & IT through active involvement of business stakeholders is a critical success factor for digital initiatives. Supporting a broad spectrum of roles to participate in application development projects fosters business & IT collaboration.
Mendix supports Business & IT collaboration through a web modeler allowing ‘citizen developers’ in the business to start prototyping based on Design Thinking approach. The prototypes built in the web modeler can be easily enhanced by professional developers using the feature rich desktop modeler as the artifacts are stored centrally in Mendix’s repository.
OutSystems does not offer a web modeler specifically optimized for citizen developers to rapidly prototype applications that can be handed over to professional developers. OutSystems offers a web version of its IDE through a terminal server-type of connection to their modeler, so it presents the same level of complexity to all users.
One potential risk of building applications with significantly higher levels of productivity is lack of long-term maintainability.
Because the cost of defects rises exponentially depending on the stage in the lifecycle, you need tools to manage this proactively.
Mendix offers a unique add-on service to get a grip on application quality and reliability: the Application Quality Monitor to assess and manage maintainability of applications based on static analysis of models following the ISO 25010 standard. The service provides management insights in intrinsic quality level of the application based on industry benchmark data.
OutSystems does not offer a service for automatic quality monitoring through static analysis based on industry benchmarks.
Building apps to power digital initiatives requires robust integration with your existing IT landscape and external services.
The Mendix Connector Kit offers powerful integration options with native REST support and advanced mapping of XML and JSON messages.
Connectors that are based on code, leveraging a 3rd party SDK, can be included easily as native drag-and-drop elements in Microflows, Mendix’s visual model for application logic.
Access to external databases can be modeled easily, without writing a single line of code. Through support of the oData protocol, you can feed Mendix application data into your BI and Analytics tools with a single click.
While OutSystems offers support for connecting external databases, application-level integration lacks the depth and breadth of Mendix e.g. visual mapping and ability to define ‘native’ drag and drop connectors yourself.
OutSystems does not support the oData standard to expose application data.
Cloud Native Architecture
Rapid application delivery of digital initiatives requires an architecture that takes full advantage of cloud characteristics for provisioning, resource management, scalability and high availability. In addition, enterprises are increasingly focused on portability across various public and private clouds.
The ‘standard’ for a cloud native architecture is described as the Twelve-Factor App methodology.
It describes what’s needed to build, deploy and scale apps instantly, and configure them for high availability.
Mendix has a cloud-native stateless architecture, optimized to run applications in modern container technology, adhering to the Twelve-Factor App principles out of the box.
App containers in Mendix have a small-footprint runtime that is fully scalable (horizontally and vertically). High availability comes out of the box, and at a cost level that is significantly lower compared to traditional approaches.
Mendix leverages Cloud Foundry (CF), the world’s largest open source platform project backed by tech giants like HP, IBM, Microsoft, Pivotal and SAP.
Through CF Mendix offers enterprise-class services for flexible provisioning, auto-scaling and high availability and freedom of choice of public and private clouds, supporting true hybrid cloud scenarios.
OutSystems’ roots are in supporting on premises deployments and code generation for applications to be deployed on a standard C# stack.
While OutSystems has moved on to offer the platform as a service, it deploys applications on a similar stack as on premises in the cloud. OutSystems does not support Cloud Foundry-based deployments. A key architectural difference is that OutSystems maintains session data in a database, while Mendix offers a stateless architecture keeping session data in the client.
A frequent question we hear from people evaluating low-code platforms is about the lock-in aspect, in case you’d like to move-on and stop using such platform. Mendix and OutSystems take a different approach addressing this challenge.
OutSystems spins the code generation approach as a remedy for lock-in. In theory, applications can be detached from the platform and keep running. While this works technically, in practice it’s like pushing your car downhill with the steering wheel locked. Since OutSystems does not support round-trip engineering, you’re not supposed to touch the code.
If you wish to leave the platform, after detaching the source code of your applications, all OutSystems tools and services will become unavailable (including Service Studio, Integration Studio, Service Center, and Lifetime), along with all of their features for visual development and composition, services repository, integration adapters automatic generation, database and application hot deployment, configuration management and versioning, packaging and staging, automatic code containment and optimization, factory access control management, performance monitoring and analytics.
So, this leaves you with generated code, including platform libraries that is hard to maintain without deep knowledge of the inner working of the platform. Once detached, there is no reverse engineering process to get those applications back into OutSystems.
Mendix addresses the lock-in challenge at its core, protecting your investment, even if you decide to leave. Mendix is the first low-code platform to publish all application models in an open model specification. The Mendix Model API and Platform SDK provide access to your core application artifacts from the outside, facilitating model export for reuse on a different target platform, including Java and .NET. In addition, you can always come back to the Mendix platform and redeploy your models. Last but not least, Mendix makes no claim to any right of ownership in the application models or customer data.
We’re proud and passionate to offer the most comprehensive enterprise-class low-code platform for rapid application development. At the same time, we know your biggest challenge driving digital innovation is not technology, but leading change.
That’s why we established our Digital Execution Practice. We’ve taken our vast experience in guiding top brands and defined a proven methodology and roadmap to help customers execute on their digital goals. As we work collaboratively, your team will learn the processes, best practices and technology to successfully drive digital transformation. From Start to Structure to Scale, we help you lead the change required to digitize your business. Step by step.