Review: OutSystems makes React apps drag-and-drop easy

Low-code application development platform lowers the bar to building web apps, mobile apps, and responsive mobile hybrid apps

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OutSystems installation and subscription options

You can run OutSystems in its own PaaS, which is hosted on Amazon Web Services. A personal PaaS environment is free forever. An Enterprise PaaS trial is free for 30 days.

There are two advertised levels of paid subscription, a One Environment subscription, which costs $2,100 per month and up, and an Enterprise subscription, which costs $4,600 pre month and up. Ultimately, the cost of OutSystems depends on the number of users, apps, forms, and so on, and you can scale your OutSystems environment out as needed.

I asked OutSystems to price out two scenarios for me. For a company of 100 with three apps—dashboard​, customer, and employee/vendor—they estimated needing 80 “app objects,” a One Environment subscription, and an annual cost of about $25,000. For a company of 1,000 with 10 apps, they estimated needing an Enterprise subscription with expansion packs for users and app objects, for an annual cost of about $110,000. Even though other companies use different formulas for their pricing, this one comes out to reasonable numbers, at least for the two cases about which I asked.

What about B2C apps that need unlimited users? OutSystems has something called a Universal subscription, which allows for that use case, although you’ll have to contact them for pricing.

Beyond the OutSystems PaaS, you can install and run OutSystems yourself on AWS or Azure, as well as on private clouds, hybrid clouds, and on premises. There are two OutSystems back ends, one based on Windows Server and .Net, and one based on RHEL and a Java server such as JBoss EAP. Your database choices include SQL Server and Oracle.

OutSystems supports scaling both vertically (more powerful servers, i.e. scale up) and horizontally (more servers, i.e. load-balanced scale out) in its PaaS, in other clouds, and in on-premises installations. It also handles batch jobs.

OutSystems does a certain amount of code optimization, database connection management, and page size compression to enhance its performance, and monitors performance nicely. It also tries to generate code that conforms to secure patterns, supports SDLC, does good auditing, and warns you in the IDE if it detects patterns that are likely to open vulnerabilities. On the other hand, it does not automatically give you HIPAA and PCI/DSS certification. That’s up to you, although you can get certification help from third parties.

Sweet on mobile hybrid apps

OutSystems is a reasonable choice for companies that want to develop web, mobile web, and mobile hybrid apps for internal use and use with partners. Because OutSystems doesn’t release its Universal subscription pricing, I can’t say whether it makes economic sense to use it for B2C apps.

While OutSystems can expose APIs for use by native clients, that isn’t its big strength. The sweet spot for OutSystems is the creation of responsive mobile hybrid apps that use Apache Cordova and can feel native if developed intelligently. In that respect it competes with Alpha Anywhere and Appian.

OutSystems is a complicated system with many moving parts. Therefore, there’s a lot to learn before you can use OutSystems effectively. On the other hand, once you do learn it, most of what you need will be at your fingertips, available in the Forge, or available from the Cordova community.

Overall, OutSystems is a very good low-code mobile hybrid development platform, and worth evaluating. Allow at least a week to learn it if you want to give it a fair shake.

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Cost: Personal environment or 30-day enterprise trial, free. One Environment subscription starts at $2,100 per month. Enterprise subscription starts at $4,600 per month. Universal subscription (unlimited users) pricing is available from the company.

Platform: Windows for app development, or a beta web environment. OutSystems PaaS runs on AWS, by default using .Net and SQL Server. OutSystems is also available for Azure, private clouds, hybrid clouds, and on-premises deployments. If you are installing OutSystems yourself, you need Windows Server 2008, 2012, or 2016 for the .Net server; SQL Server 2008 through 2016 or Oracle Database; RHEL 5.x or 6.x for the Java server with JBoss EAP 6.4, WildFly 8.2, or WebLogic 12c.

At a Glance
  • OutSystems is a very good, moderately priced platform for responsive mobile hybrid, mobile web, and web applications. Its sweet spot is the creation of responsive mobile hybrid apps that use Apache Cordova.

    Pros

    • Available in the OutSystems Cloud and for on-premises deployments
    • Hosted on Windows/.Net or RHEL/Java
    • Fairly easy low-code IDE
    • Allows for the addition of custom code at many points
    • Generates responsive React apps with Cordova wrappers
    • Good integration with external databases and web services

    Cons

    • Development environment runs only on Windows, although a web IDE is in beta test
    • Lacks WYSIWYG design option
    • There is a lot to learn before you can use OutSystems effectively

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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