Unlike the traditional high-code approach, low-code presumes mostly visual and model-driven development. It reduces the scope of coders’ work and allows even non-tech specialists to participate in app development. In such a way, low-code boosts efficiency, enables faster time-to-market, and lowers the cost of development.
As a result, low-code application platforms (LCAPs) are becoming increasingly popular. The current LCAP market situation is highly competitive but also highly profitable, with a 20% CAGR reaching $29B in revenue by 2025. Two of the leading platforms, according to Gartner, are Mendix and Microsoft Power Apps. Here at N-iX, we highly endorse both of these LCAPs and want to share our experience of working with them in the form of a Power Apps vs Mendix review.
Aspects to consider before using low-code
When considering using low-code platforms, application and software engineering leaders should focus on four key areas.
LCAP and alternatives
Compare LCAP capabilities with alternative low-code markets, such as multiexperience development platforms (MXDP), business process automation (BPA), robotic process automation (RPA), integration platform as a service (iPaaS), and citizen automation and development platforms (CADPs).
Use the following platform decision framework:
Alignment with existing architecture: Strategize how the LCAP solution fits into your existing application architecture, considering used programming languages, cloud strategy, integration efforts, compatibility with design systems, agile frameworks, and existing services.
Analyze use cases and business needs: Carefully assess your use cases and business requirements to ensure an LCAP aligns with your objectives.
Leverage composability: Take advantage of LCAPs' ability to call external services, including self-built APIs and purchased API services, to handle complex application requirements.
Anticipate future needs: Define immediate requirements and anticipate application needs for the next few years to avoid the need for platform replacements.
Pricing evaluation: Carefully evaluate pricing considerations and ensure that contracts cover future usage to prevent renegotiation.
Proof of concept: Before making major investments, use free or evaluation versions of LCAPs and conduct at least one proof of concept to assess developer experience and platform functionalities.
Developer talent and skills
Choose the right LCAP: Select an LCAP that aligns with your typical developer persona, whether you're working with citizen developers, full-time IT and business-led developer teams, or have a mixed team.
Evaluate developer community support: Assess the maturity of the LCAP's developer and partner community support, as well as its ecosystem of connectors, templates, and prebuilt services.
Invest in training: Prioritize developer training for both professional and citizen developers before embarking on app development projects. Implement ongoing self-learning programs to enhance skills.
When not to use low-code?
Data analytics and BI: For robust data analytics and business intelligence solutions, there are specialized tools. They can be seamlessly integrated into low-code applications instead of developing a solution from scratch.
ETL and heavy transaction sets: These use cases also have specialized tools that can be easily integrated into low-code applications.
Large core system replacement: In cases where you are considering replacing large core systems like SAP, OEBS, or FIS Profile in the Financial Services sector, it may be more strategic to extend these systems by integrating low-code to fill specific gaps or enhance functionality.
How to select a low-code platform?
The best areas of application for Power Platform are:
- Small business-to-employee applications;
- Front-end or workflow on top of other Microsoft products.
Use Mendix for:
- sophisticated applications with consumer-grade user experiences;
- fully responsive web and mobile apps;
- complex integrations with non-Microsoft backend systems (such as SAP);
- situations that require flexibility to deploy applications across various environments, including public cloud, private cloud, on-premises, and edge devices.
Here are short notes that may help you choose an LCAP based on your project requirements.
Now, let us compare Mendix vs Power Apps in more detail. We will look through factors such as integration possibilities, licensing, ecosystem, and more.
Power Apps vs Mendix: overview
Microsoft Power Apps
The platform includes a suite of products such as Power Apps, Power Pages, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, and Dataverse. These components are bundled within Power Apps licenses, making them accessible to users.
Power Platform provides Microsoft’s AI toolkit that extends it, provides no-code AI and ML capabilities, and integrates with Power Apps, PowerBI, and Power Automate.
While Power Apps mostly caters to citizen developers, it extends its versatility by offering a wide array of code-first tools tailored for professional developers. These tools enable tasks such as effortless API publication through the Azure platform, seamless registration of custom controls developed in React or TypeScript via the Power Apps Component Framework, and the straightforward deployment of custom AI models onto the platform.
Microsoft Power Apps has the largest user base among LCAP solutions, mainly because many enterprise users already use Microsoft 365 and Dynamics ecosystems.
The versatility of Mendix development services is revolutionizing how companies approach application development. Here is more of what sets it apart in the market:
- the commitment to both citizen and professional developers;
- App Services and Solutions, an extensive library of composable assets accessible via the Mendix Marketplace;
- focus on serving independent software vendors (ISVs).
It features the MxAssist suite, consisting of three specialized virtual co-developer bots: Logic Bot, Best Practice Bot, and Data Validation Bot. These bots facilitate tasks such as issue identification, automation, and providing recommendations to developers.
Also, Mendix offers the Mendix ML Kit, allowing developers to embed AI models into their smart apps without relying on third-party hosted services. This bridges the gap between AI frameworks and low-code, enabling rapid development of ML-enhanced smart apps.
Mendix is also notable for its versatility, supporting multi-cloud and on-premise deployment options. The platform provides a single development paradigm for building multi-channel apps. Users can build front-ends for multi-channel apps from a single model.
Low-code adoption within the organization’s ecosystem
Microsoft Power Apps
Many organizations heavily rely on Microsoft products such as Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 for their daily operations. Given this reliance, they don’t often compare Power Apps vs Mendix and simply choose Microsoft’s product for their low-code application development needs.
Power Apps seamlessly integrates with the existing Microsoft solutions, allowing users to access standard prebuilt connectors, create custom connectors within Teams, and leverage Dataverse for Teams. Dynamics 365 users, in particular, can make the most of various connector types, Dataverse integration, and the creation of standalone Power Apps within their licensed Dynamics 365 environments.
Moreover, the open-sourcing of Power Fx, the low-code language used by Power Apps and Excel, makes it accessible for contributions and usage within the broader GitHub community. This alignment with Microsoft's ecosystem offers organizations a cohesive and familiar approach to low-code development.
However, there is a problem with Power Apps. The fact is that Power Platform is a set of various products that have to be combined to achieve their desired outcomes. Such an approach can result in a fragmented development process that requires users to navigate different platforms, leading to inconsistencies and a potentially less streamlined experience.
If an organization already uses Microsoft products, the management may decide to continue investing in a familiar technology. However, there may be situations where switching to Mendix could be more beneficial. For instance, customization limitations for certain components are one of the problems with Power Apps.
In contrast, Mendix offers a platform that empowers customers to create complex applications. These advanced options allow organizations to tailor their solutions to align with their unique needs. Mendix's focus on adaptability makes it a compelling choice for those who seek to address complex business processes and maintain the ability to customize their apps to a greater extent.
While comparing Mendix vs Power Apps, you can discover that the former offers a unified development environment. In such a way, you don’t need to use multiple Mendix products. Everything required for development is conveniently located in one place, promoting an efficient and time-saving development experience for users of all backgrounds. This streamlined approach underscores its commitment to a low-code focus.
Microsoft Power Apps
It seamlessly integrates with various Microsoft tools and services. This deep integration benefits organizations already using Microsoft products or seeking a comprehensive low-code solution.
Microsoft 365 integration allows users to access and manipulate data from tools like SharePoint, Excel, and Outlook. It enables users to create custom apps that enhance productivity within the familiar Microsoft 365 environment.
For organizations using Microsoft Dynamics 365 for customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP), Power Apps provides a cohesive low-code solution. Its users can create custom applications that enable them to streamline business processes and improve customer interactions.
Power Apps is also fully compatible with Microsoft Azure services, offering extensive possibilities for application development. Users can connect to Azure services such as Azure Functions, Azure SQL Database, and Azure Cognitive Services to enhance the functionality of their apps and make use of the power of the cloud.
Power Automate makes it possible to automate workflows and processes. The result is the creation of sophisticated automation scenarios where data and actions can flow seamlessly between Power Apps and other Microsoft and third-party applications.
Power Apps is built on the Common Data Service (CDS), which provides a unified data platform for storing and managing data across various Microsoft and custom applications. This common data model simplifies data integration and ensures data consistency across the organization.
Microsoft Teams is yet another point to embed Power Apps. This allows users to access and use custom apps within the Teams interface. This integration enhances collaboration and productivity by bringing apps directly to where teams communicate and work together.
However, it is also important to mention that Power Apps users have encountered certain limitations related to connectors and data storage, which can impact the overall application experience:
Custom connector costs
Some Power Apps users have reported additional expenses associated with custom connectors. These costs can arise when organizations require tailored connectors to integrate with specific systems.
Data storage challenges and limitations
PowerApps applications may face data storage constraints, leading to performance issues. To overcome the 2000-row pull limit in Power Apps and maintain optimal app performance, developers often rely on different tricks and external databases. Such a decision often requires sophisticated data architecture planning.
Mendix, in turn, offers robust tools for connecting with third-party systems, which makes this platform even more adaptable than Power Apps. This integration empowers organizations to use their existing technology investments while building sophisticated, connected applications. Here are the features that alleviate integration with Mendix:
Extensive third-party support
Mendix provides the flexibility to connect with a wide range of third-party applications and services using standard interfaces and protocols, including REST, SOAP, JDBC, and OData. It ensures compatibility with numerous external systems, enhancing data exchange and functionality.
Mendix Connect features a user-friendly metadata catalog, simplifying the discovery, comprehension, and utilization of external data within Mendix applications. Connect catalog adds External Entities as an abstraction over the connectivity information and query code typically needed to send or retrieve external data. Mendix Connect will help reduce the time spent on all the small things that make building integrations a hassle and allow you to keep an overview of what is happening in your landscape.
While comparing Mendix vs Power Apps, it is necessary to cover how Mendix handles the issues that limit the capabilities of Power Apps:
Custom connector costs
Mendix offers connectors on its Marketplace. Most of them are free and can be used immediately in your application, but some of them require contacting the vendor for purchase.
Data storage challenges and limitations
There is a mature ORM that enables Mendix developers to concentrate on creating domain models using a visual editor. Mendix does not limit the developer in data retrieval tools and supports a wide set of data manipulation widgets, but may require an understanding of the internal of Runtime and RDBMS.
Microsoft Power Apps often comes bundled with Office 365 or Dynamics 365 licenses, which is a cost-effective option for customers. What is more, many customers are already Microsoft license holders, and because of this, they are encouraged to explore Power Apps without incurring additional charges, making it an attractive starting point for many organizations.
However, users may encounter limitations, particularly in areas like data storage, management, and the need for custom connectors and API calls. For example, Power BI Azure connectors fall into the Premium category and require additional licenses. These additional requirements can lead to unforeseen costs, pushing users beyond the confines of their initial free license.
If you look into the licensing model in detail, it turns out that different components of the Power Platform support different licensing models, e.g.per-user, per-login, per-app plan, per 1000 calls, or pay-as-you-go. This makes costs non-transparent and makes control more difficult. As a result, Microsoft’s solution may cost more than it was initially expected. PowerApps appears cheap to start with but beware of surprises when you cross usage thresholds and the additional products required to build certain applications.
Mendix has a simple, user-based pricing model with several tiers of available functionality from Free to Premium levels. Hosting apps on the Mendix cloud incurs an additional cost, which, while not considered inexpensive, can yield a substantial return on investment when used at scale. In fact, successful projects often find the platform paying for itself within the first 12 months of implementation.
Citizen development enablement
The platform is widely regarded for its user-friendly interface and intuitive design, making it accessible to citizen developers. Those with prior experience in the Microsoft ecosystem, such as Dynamics 365 CRM users, often find it easy to use.
PowerApps introduces citizen developers to PowerFX, a simplified coding language grounded in Microsoft Excel. This language is designed to bridge the gap between traditional coding and low-code development, offering a relatively gentle learning curve.
In the comparison of Power Apps vs Mendix, it's worth noting that Mendix generally has a higher entry threshold. To solve this issue, it is committed to continually enhancing the user experience for citizen developers. The dedicated teams at Mendix work to make the platform increasingly user-friendly and convenient over time. In fact, its learning curve is something that will help citizen developers learn the necessary skills to create robust applications efficiently.
One of its strengths concerning user-friendliness is Studio with a versatile low-code IDE. This tool offers different AI assistants and is designed to facilitate the application development process, allowing users to create applications with varying levels of complexity.
However, despite its simplicity, both platforms do require citizen developers to undergo a learning process to become proficient in building applications. Acquiring familiarity with PowerFX and C# for Power Platform or Microflows and Java for Mendix and exploring their capabilities are essential steps in harnessing the full potential of any platform.
Instead of choosing between Power Apps vs Mendix, a co-existence scenario involves the strategic use of both platforms. Power Apps is ideal for individual citizen developers to build simple Microsoft-oriented applications. It is also a good choice for simple use cases within the Azure public cloud.
Mendix, on the other hand, accommodates a broader spectrum of business problems and offers enhanced features, making it suitable for teams of professional and citizen developers to build sophisticated applications together. What makes it a suitable choice for co-existence scenarios is the presence of several features that Power Apps may lack. They include tailored IDEs for professional and citizen developers, robust version control for collaborative development, and access to a diverse public app store with numerous components that expedite app creation.
In the Power Apps vs Mendix showdown, both emerge as powerful low-code tools, each with its unique strengths and considerations. The choice between the two should be guided by the specific needs and objectives of an organization.
Mendix's robustness lies in its versatility and adaptability, making it an ideal choice for organizations seeking to address complex business processes and customize their applications extensively. However, its learning curve may require more effort from users, particularly citizen developers.
On the other hand, Microsoft Power Apps boasts seamless integration within the Microsoft ecosystem, offering a familiar environment for organizations heavily reliant on Microsoft products. Its user-friendly interface caters to citizen developers, but it may have certain limitations, particularly in areas like data storage, custom connectors, and offline capabilities
In many cases, these platforms can complement each other, allowing organizations to harness the strengths of both for a comprehensive low-code solution. Overall, the decision between Mendix vs Power Apps should align with your unique requirements, ensuring that it optimizes its low-code development journey effectively.