Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, ManageEngine IT Matters, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Agile Computing

Agile Computing: Blog Post

3GL vs. 5GL Custom Web Application Development

Software Generational Languages

I read a great article today in which Sinclair Shuller makes an argument for traditional 3GL’s (.NET, Java) versus “new” 4GL (force.com) and 5GL (workxpress.com) platforms. In fact, he questions whether these platforms are more akin to the old Microsoft Frontpage product, which practically speaking, never did much to change website coding.

Let me start by saying up front that I've devoted 10 years of my life to building exactly the type of new platform that he argues against. In fact, we consider it to be a 5th generation development language (5GL) platform for custom web application development. We’ve seen many commercial successes with it, so I make my counter points below with years of practical customer engagements to back me up.

Given that disclaimer, I genuinely think the article and argument was good, and brought up many valid points. I'm writing (I hope constructively!) because where his argument lost strength was when he framed the choice as an "either-or" choice.

There are two fundamental issues to consider when deciding whether a 3GL or a 5GL should be chosen for a particular custom development project and when speculating as to which approach will ultimately “win” the debate.

The first fundamental issue one needs to consider when offering a 3GL solution is simply “what does the customer say?”  Remember, there is a large and underserved SMB market out there, shouting loudly for better and more affordable software solutions. Although representing 40% of the market, these folks have been mostly ignored for decades, simply because 3GL’s couldn’t deliver the flexibility, cost reduction and deployment speed these customers demand.

The second fundamental concern is one of vision, and progress; when one applies some forward vision, do we really think that where we are today is going to be the right way for tomorrow? Are we stuck with our current set of development languages forever?  Obviously, that’s ridiculous, and it is really just a question of who is going to realize competitive advantage by adopting the newer tools first.

Do customers “require” 3GL tools?

The truth is that there are a lot of business cases that demand speed of deployment, cost reduction and flexibility more than they demand fine tuned control over possibly trivial details. I could cite many actual customer examples. In these cases, a 5GL PaaS approach is the only approach that fits those needs, and the 3GL approach to custom web application development strictly does not.

And that’s not to mention ISVs. Folks who want to build a business around a piece of software they publish have some very serious hurdles to overcome when building on a 3GL. When potential ISVs choose a platform as a base, they become free to focus on building a business, and can worry less about technology.

What a 5GL PaaS does in those examples is give the customer or ISV software they simply couldn't practically deploy under "older" 3GL models. When faced with a choice of getting the software they need within their budgets and time frames, versus not getting any software at all, the 5GL approach will win every time.

And it’s not just SMBs or ISVs that are demanding a more successful approach then what 3GL’s have been able to deliver; if you talk with any enterprise CIO they will get a sour face while telling you how unsuccessful 3GL’s have been within their organization.  One CIO once told me that for every dollar they budgeted, they ended up needing to spend $7 to actually get the thing to work. Reference the Chaos report (http://www1.standishgroup.com/newsroom/chaos_2009.php ) in which only 1 in 3 projects have completed successfully.

Do we really think yesterday’s solution is still going to be tomorrow’s?

The second issue here is one of "vision". In just about any industry, the evolution is for simpler to use, faster and more affordable products (think rotary land-line versus iPhone). Why should software development be any different?  If it were possible to deliver better/faster/cheaper/simpler/easier without sacrificing sophistication, isn't it obvious that is the future of software development?

My point is that while the examples Sinclair cited of how force.com didn’t live up to its billing because it required programmers but yet didn’t deliver full programmatic control are credible examples, tools like WorkXpress are nevertheless pushing the boundaries of 5GL sophistication, and addressing those types of issues.

In other words, even today 5GLs are being chosen over 3GLs by real-world customers, because they are the best tool to solve real-world problems. So if that’s happening today, how much more so is it likely to happen tomorrow?

The utopian vision of a 5GL is clearly better than what we get with 3GLs of today, it really is just a matter of time until that vision becomes a reality.  And if so, what is the point of arguing for 3GL’s when they aren’t even the right tool to solve a particular need?

I wonder what the 1GL and 2GL people said when 3GLs started to emerge? The 3GL folks eventually won that debate, time will tell if the 5GL folks will win this one.

More Stories By Treff LaPlante

Treff LaPlante has been involved with technology for nearly 20 years. At WorkXpress, he passionately drives the vision of making customized enterprise software easy, fast, and affordable.

Prior to joining WorkXpress, Treff was director of operations for eBay's HomesDirect. While there, he created strategic relationships with Fortune 500 companies and national broker networks and began his foray into the development of flexible workflow software technologies. He served on the management team that sold HomesDirect to eBay.

During his time at Vivendi-Universal Interactive, Treff was director of strategy. In addition to M&A activities, Treff broadly applied quantitative management principles to sales, marketing, and product line functions. Treff served as the point person for the management team that sold Cendant Software to Vivendi-Universal. Earlier positions included product management and national sales trainer for Energy Design Systems, an engineering software company. Treff began his professional career as a metals trader for Randall Trading Corp, a commodities firm that specialized in bartering and transporting various metals and coal from the then-dissolving Soviet Union.

Treff received his MBA from Pepperdine University and a BS in chemical engineering from The Pennsylvania State University. http://www.workxpress.com

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
SYS-CON Events announced today that Calligo, an innovative cloud service provider offering mid-sized companies the highest levels of data privacy and security, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Calligo offers unparalleled application performance guarantees, commercial flexibility and a personalised support service from its globally located cloud plat...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
"The Striim platform is a full end-to-end streaming integration and analytics platform that is middleware that covers a lot of different use cases," explained Steve Wilkes, Founder and CTO at Striim, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We are focused on SAP running in the clouds, to make this super easy because we believe in the tremendous value of those powerful worlds - SAP and the cloud," explained Frank Stienhans, CTO of Ocean9, Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
DX World EXPO, LLC., a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
"MobiDev is a Ukraine-based software development company. We do mobile development, and we're specialists in that. But we do full stack software development for entrepreneurs, for emerging companies, and for enterprise ventures," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We've been engaging with a lot of customers including Panasonic, we've been involved with Cisco and now we're working with the U.S. government - the Department of Homeland Security," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
While the focus and objectives of IoT initiatives are many and diverse, they all share a few common attributes, and one of those is the network. Commonly, that network includes the Internet, over which there isn't any real control for performance and availability. Or is there? The current state of the art for Big Data analytics, as applied to network telemetry, offers new opportunities for improving and assuring operational integrity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Frey, Vice President of S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, discussed the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insights from the vast t...
SYS-CON Events announced today that EnterpriseTech has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. EnterpriseTech is a professional resource for news and intelligence covering the migration of high-end technologies into the enterprise and business-IT industry, with a special focus on high-tech solutions in new product development, workload management, increased effic...
"We provide IoT solutions. We provide the most compatible solutions for many applications. Our solutions are industry agnostic and also protocol agnostic," explained Richard Han, Head of Sales and Marketing and Engineering at Systena America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud com...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. 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 ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CHEETAH Training & Innovation will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CHEETAH Training & Innovation is a cloud consulting and IT training firm specializing in improving clients cloud strategies and infrastructures for medium to large companies.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datanami has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datanami is a communication channel dedicated to providing insight, analysis and up-to-the-minute information about emerging trends and solutions in Big Data. The publication sheds light on all cutting-edge technologies including networking, storage and applications, and thei...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...