Last week, I along with other leaders in our Rapid App Dev practice joined Mendix in Rotterdam for their #MxWorld2019 event. If you’ve read my other posts, you’ll get a more play by play take on the event and the activities my teammates and I participated in leading up to, during, and after the event. I’ve had a few days to step back and reflect on the event and wanted to share my Top 5 takeaways with you. Let me know if you agree or had a different key takeaway (not surprising if you did as there were many announcements!)
#5 The Coffee
OK not really, but it was really good and you can’t deny that the edible ink was a great feature!
#5 Being highlighted as a Maker
This will immediately come off like a glory hound comment, but let me explain before you judge. We’ve (EPI-USE) been partners of Mendix for over five years, and while many partners have a longer relationship with Mendix, we are the largest and longest term partner in the US and one of the few with a global footprint. Back then, Danny Hansen and I took a chance to try out this product, where I chose to put behind me a 10+ year expertise in Business Intelligence, to give app development a go. I delivered the first app and immediately worked with our leadership to develop the business case to turn this into a practice and was given the opportunity and responsibility to make something of it.
Fast forward to the keynote by Johan (Mendix CTO) where we were highlighted along with Purdue University to innovate how to leverage Mendix to solve SAP app needs where Fiori wasn’t a great fit. While I was plastered on the big screen, I actually didn’t develop a single line of code for that application. My amazing team members (Brett, Blake, Philip, Daniel, Morgan, and Suyash) all worked closely with the business and IT to deliver the solution. The partnership with our clients that we emphasize in our work ethics allowed us to design and deliver this Effort Reporting and Summer Pay solution together, weaving and changing as the back end migrated from ECC to S/4. I’m very proud of this, not because of my face on the screen, but because I was used to represent the hard work and growth over five years to get to the point where we have a team skilled enough to deliver on these kind of app needs that deserve the recognition they received.
#4 Native Mobile
For those that have been working with Mendix for a while and built mobile apps, you know we’ve always been able to deploy the web apps to the App or Play store and run similar to a native app, known as Hybrid Mobile apps. We leverage PhoneGap (Cordova) to access the native API’s that gave our web apps access to all of the nifty features that iOS and Android use such as camera, gps, gallery, etc. However, the apps still require a web connection at some point because they are online native web apps. You can build for offline, but there is a very narrow use case for truly offline builds and if you are leveraging any sort of SSO, which most apps nowadays do (OAuth, Auth0, …), you have to connect at least the first time before going offline. PhoneGap has stagnated quite a bit over the past few years as more and more development has shifted to React Native, Google’s Flutter, or core native development.
There’s no denying that truly native apps run quicker. A layman can easily see and determine the difference between an instant execution of a request versus a web call. I liken this change back to what Facebook did years ago when they made their app Hybrid using HTML5 and then determined performance was so poor they needed to go back to native (React was a result of this). With Mendix apps, the huge benefit of Hybrid mobile was one code base to manage between Android and iOS…but not really in practice as we can attest. If you started to leverage PhoneGap at all, you quickly realize all of the unique things that must be coded to handle the API’s correctly and seamlessly so the end user experience is identical. It’s still a great solution to use Mendix with PhoneGap, but React Native, where they app is built for offline first and then you choose when and how it connects online, is a superior solution. Don't take it from me, just look at the explosion of React Native in the market. There is a reason, and Mendix smartly adjusted their strategy accordingly. We are very excited for this new feature set as we do a lot of Mobile app development with our clients!
#3 Deploying directly on SAP HANA
This could be massive, or it could be nothing, but we are excited either way. EPI-USE works mostly with SAP clients and as they invest in the HANA appliance, they want to leverage every ounce of that investment. Deploying Mendix apps on HANA gives them parity with some native solutions and allows for clients to consider apps with Mendix they otherwise might not have. High I/O apps can now be designed with Mendix due to the increased performance. But I look at it from a slightly different angle as well. Owners will be able to scale their applications seamlessly, leveraging their existing monitoring and management tools over the environment. Additionally, this will allow their analytic tools that are configured to pull in the app data without a lot of connectors or API’s needing to be developed first. They ideally will have direct access to the data tables. There are many possibilities that this opens the door to allow architects and developers to “Go Make It”. ;) I’m excited to learn more!
#2 Mendix Data Hub
Oh boy, this is a biggie. Potentially. Very little detail was announced as this is still a ways off (Fall 2019 from the schedule), but this could be game changing. Before the announcement, I was speaking to a colleague that morning that a tool we desperately needed before delivering on the Micro-services mantra was a service manager. Those of us that architect solutions understand the advantages and disadvantages of that versus a Monolithic architecture, but what has always held me back from creating this reality was the management and monitoring of all of these services. It is a huge commitment. If something isn’t performing well you need to have the tools to detect it, isolate it, and develop to fix it without negatively impacting the rest of the infrastructure. Without the service management tools in place, I’ve not felt comfortable pushing microservices on clients despite the benefits.
Now, we still know very little about this solution and what features will be developed or part of its roadmap, but no matter what I know it will be a step in the right direction. As a solution architect, I’m most interested in this announcement!
Yes, it’s cliché, but this cannot be underestimated. When we all take a step back from our day to day world to interact with our colleagues, partners, customers, and leaders, we all improve. What I mean by that is the perspective change allows you to see things differently than before which leads to new ideas, new activities, new opportunities. It allows the community as a whole to share and be heard while listening to others, which forms bonds. This aspect is overlooked so often as not “core” or “business critical”, but I disagree whole-heartedly. Everyone I’ve spoken to has come back inspired to do or make more, so the industry as a whole benefits. I would take 5 engaged colleagues with lower skill over 1 disengaged high-skilled resource every time. The engaged members will push boundaries and impact more than any disengaged teammate will ever do.
It was a blast to experience the announcements first hand and meet so many old and familiar faces! Let me know if you agree with my takeaways or not!