Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Liz McMillan, David H Deans, Automic Blog, Pat Romanski, Janakiram MSV

Related Topics: Microsoft Cloud, @CloudExpo

Microsoft Cloud: Article

Is Hand-Coding Becoming Obsolete?

The time and cost savings of application generation tools are simply too significant to ignore

Increasingly, IT managers, CIOs and software developers are turning to a new approach for rapidly building robust database applications without programming - application generators. Today's business environment demands managers find ways to do more with less, and application generation allows both developers and non-developers to build applications quickly and efficiently.

What Types of Applications Can You Build?
Application generation tools build database-driven applications that can be deployed to the Web, the Cloud, or to Microsoft SharePoint environments. Like any hand-built application, these database applications are typically used for:

  • Data entry and management: collecting and editing data from users.
  • Reporting and tracking: reporting, summarizing and visualizing data.
  • Workflow and scheduling: automating step-wise business processes.
  • Business process automation: orchestrating data flow between multiple systems.

While individual applications may look quite different from one another, these applications usually contain a variety of rich, interactive page types, reports, data import and export features, and integrated application security. Because most business applications are built atop an underlying database, they lend themselves to automated and semi-automated solutions for creating and customizing their Web pages and data access code. Only custom business logic need be added by hand. Moving from the conceptual to a concrete example, let's take a look at one such tool, marketed as Iron Speed Designer.

The figure above shows a typical order management application that was generated by Iron Speed Designer. To develop this application, you begin with a simple application wizard to create a fully functioning Web application based on your underlying database.  This application can be deployed "as ism" or further customized using an intuitive page layout spreadsheet and simple Microsoft Excel-like formulas to add custom logic. Data elements, and even entire panels and charts, can be dropped from the Iron Speed Designer toolbox onto the layout spreadsheet. Since Iron Speed Designer understands the relationships in the underlying database, no programming is required.

Since the tool includes a wide variety of professionally-designed page styles, you won't need a graphic designer to make your Web applications look good.  You can customize these styles, or create your own to maintain your standard corporate look and feel. One significant advantage of these tools is they frequently add a bevy of sophisticated features to your application that would have taken weeks or months to build by hand.  These features give your application a level of polish lacking in most custom applications.  Reporting, data import and export and application security are commonly included features. For example, you can export formatted data directly to Microsoft Excel for further analysis and reporting, as shown in the figure below.

Application Generation Yields Huge Savings
How well does the application generation process work? An analysis of Iron Speed customer applications indicates they save an average of 19 person weeks and $37,000 of development costs per application. In short, these tools could pay for themselves in one application.

Even non-developers can build applications in just a few hours or days, rather than weeks and months, all without programming.  Individuals, and small teams of just a few people, can out-produce entire development teams.  Moreover, corporate managers don't have to pay steep internal transfer costs, which are frequently charged by their regular development organizations. Some key benefits of application-generation tools include:

  • Reduced software development costs. Applications can be developed and deployed faster and more efficiently with less cost in human resources.  Proof-of-concept systems can be rapidly built, feedback gathered, and quickly modified.
  • Consistent look and feel. Generated applications have highly consistent and professionally designed user interfaces, giving applications a finished look and feel, even at the prototype stage. A consistent look and feel across applications reduces end-user learning curves when assimilating new applications.
  • Simplified application maintenance. Generated applications follow a highly consistent architecture, allowing any developer to maintain any application.  There is little or no ‘ramp up' time necessary for one developer to maintain another developer's application because the architectural knowledge transfers from one application to another.

While traditional software developers may believe that machine-generated applications can't possibly be as good as their own hand-written code, in most cases upper management will opt for quick standardized development at minimal cost rather than pay for time-consuming customized perfectionism. The time and cost savings of application generation tools are simply too significant to ignore, and most functional area managers prefer solutions that make their end-users productive and satisfied as quickly as possible.

Many of us hardened programming veterans remember the cumbersome fourth generation languages (4GLs) of the 70s and 80s, which were advertised as bringing in the new age of programmer free application development. We also remember the second phase of 4GLs, released in the 90s, that focused on end-user development and many times created more problems than they solved. Thus, we may be reluctant to even consider the "new and improved" application generation tools. But, like the modern tools found in home improvement stores, improved technology has brought many application development tools that simply make the job easier. If you would like information on one of the most current application generation tools, you may want to visit http://www.ironspeed.com, or other similar Web sites, that can further explain how these tools can help you increase your credibility and performance as a professional application developer.

More Stories By Alan Fisher

Alan Fisher was a General Partner at Outlook Ventures, Inc., a venture capital company prior to co-founding Iron Speed, Inc. He co-founded Onsale, Inc. (now part of Amazon) and was its Chief Technology Officer from July 1994 to December 1999. He also co-founded and was President of Software Partners, Inc, a developer and publisher of software products from August 1988 to July 1994. From April 1984 to August 1988, Mr. Fisher served as Technical Marketing Manager and Product Development Manager for Teknowledge, Inc., a developer of artificial intelligence software products. From June 1981 to April 1984, he served as a member of the technical staff for AT&T Bell Laboratories.

Mr. Fisher has served on the boards of several publicly traded companies including Onsale, Inc., an Internet auction retailer; Egghead.com, an Internet retailer of computers and software; FatBrain, Inc., an Internet retailer of technical and professional books; and Infodata Systems Inc., an e-business consulting services company.

Mr. Fisher received his M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Missouri.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor - all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
My team embarked on building a data lake for our sales and marketing data to better understand customer journeys. This required building a hybrid data pipeline to connect our cloud CRM with the new Hadoop Data Lake. One challenge is that IT was not in a position to provide support until we proved value and marketing did not have the experience, so we embarked on the journey ourselves within the product marketing team for our line of business within Progress. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Sum...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex softw...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
What sort of WebRTC based applications can we expect to see over the next year and beyond? One way to predict development trends is to see what sorts of applications startups are building. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Arin Sime, founder of WebRTC.ventures, will discuss the current and likely future trends in WebRTC application development based on real requests for custom applications from real customers, as well as other public sources of information,
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Apache Hadoop is emerging as a distributed platform for handling large and fast incoming streams of data. Predictive maintenance, supply chain optimization, and Internet-of-Things analysis are examples where Hadoop provides the scalable storage, processing, and analytics platform to gain meaningful insights from granular data that is typically only valuable from a large-scale, aggregate view. One architecture useful for capturing and analyzing streaming data is the Lambda Architecture, represent...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ocean9will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Ocean9 provides cloud services for Backup, Disaster Recovery (DRaaS) and instant Innovation, and redefines enterprise infrastructure with its cloud native subscription offerings for mission critical SAP workloads.
With billions of sensors deployed worldwide, the amount of machine-generated data will soon exceed what our networks can handle. But consumers and businesses will expect seamless experiences and real-time responsiveness. What does this mean for IoT devices and the infrastructure that supports them? More of the data will need to be handled at - or closer to - the devices themselves.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Lachapelle, CEO of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), will provide an overview of various initiatives to certifiy the security of connected devices and future trends in ensuring public trust of IoT. Eric Lachapelle is the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), an international certification body. His role is to help companies and individuals to achieve professional, accredited and worldw...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Loom Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2015, Loom Systems delivers an advanced AI solution to predict and prevent problems in the digital business. Loom stands alone in the industry as an AI analysis platform requiring no prior math knowledge from operators, leveraging the existing staff to succeed in the digital era. With offices in S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HTBase will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. HTBase (Gartner 2016 Cool Vendor) delivers a Composable IT infrastructure solution architected for agility and increased efficiency. It turns compute, storage, and fabric into fluid pools of resources that are easily composed and re-composed to meet each application’s needs. With HTBase, companies can quickly prov...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Infranics will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Since 2000, Infranics has developed SysMaster Suite, which is required for the stable and efficient management of ICT infrastructure. The ICT management solution developed and provided by Infranics continues to add intelligence to the ICT infrastructure through the IMC (Infra Management Cycle) based on mathemat...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and management into a ...
There are 66 million network cameras capturing terabytes of data. How did factories in Japan improve physical security at the facilities and improve employee productivity? Edge Computing reduces possible kilobytes of data collected per second to only a few kilobytes of data transmitted to the public cloud every day. Data is aggregated and analyzed close to sensors so only intelligent results need to be transmitted to the cloud. Non-essential data is recycled to optimize storage.