ROTTERDAM, Holland—To make it easier for its customers to build and distribute enterprise apps for employees, enterprise app platform vendor Mendix has added a collaboration-inspired software layer it calls AppCloud to its app building platform.
AppCloud is designed to be a central place in the app building process where developers, users, partners and others can access data, share ideas, discuss needed features and help improve the app development process as the apps are being built, according to the company.
The new features, as well as the release of the company's first free Community Edition of the Mendix enterprise cloud platform, were unveiled here April 3 at the vendor's annual Mendix World conference, held at the Cruise Terminal Rotterdam building.
The idea behind AppCloud is to be a place where developers, users and others can come up with better ways of doing things—and then implement them, Gottfried Sehringer, vice president of global marketing for Mendix, told eWEEK.
Included in AppCloud are new "sandbox cloud services" where experimentation can be welcomed while gathering almost-instant user feedback. "What we're really trying to do here is to instigate innovation," said Sehringer. "You don't need permission to try things. You can just try something and let others try it, all in the same environment and under the same roof."
Another key feature of AppCloud is the introduction of Launchpad, which for the first time gives end users a central place, or Web portal page, where they can access the apps that their IT teams built for them using the Mendix platform. In the past, developers would email users to send links for new apps so they could let them know they were available for download and use.
That's now changed with Launchpad, because it wasn't always efficient in communicating new apps to users, said Sehringer. "Users didn't have a central place to find their apps. They had to get them from IT."
Another key benefit of Launchpad is that users also gain shared functions across apps, making the tools more effective and productive for employees. "End users can get more out of their apps using the benefit of the relationship between the apps," such as notifications from other users or automatically generated messages from the apps themselves, said Sehringer.
The introduction of the free Mendix Community Edition marks a new direction for the company, which was founded in 2005. Previously, prospective users could try out the Mendix platform for 30 days for free, after which the free service would expire. Now expiration dates have been removed for the Community Edition, allowing enterprises to work with it for as long as they want for free—provided that it is used by fewer than 10 people per day.
"We want companies to tell their people, 'Go nuts with Mendix,' and try it all out," said Sehringer.
The Mendix Community Edition does the same things as the company's paid platform, allowing individuals or companies to build and deploy working apps, then share them with others instantly, according to Mendix.
"As apps emerge as the single most important differentiator across many industries, developers and companies, big or small, need a better and easier way to quickly turn a concept into a working app," Derek Roos, CEO and co-founder of Mendix, said in a statement. "Our new Community Edition is designed to make app-driven business innovation completely frictionless, easy and free."
David Norton, a Gartner analyst who spoke here at the conference, said that in a field filled with competitors including Salesforce.com, SUSE Studio and Wexler, Mendix has been able to differentiate itself because it is skilled at telling the real-world stories of the benefits gained by its customers.
"This is not new," Norton said of the marketplace for automated app building services. "But they've captured the imagination of the business world. They've been very successful in looking at how to engage with businesses, and they're doing a better job of telling the stories" about business outcomes and the agility experienced by customers who use the Mendix platform.
Some Mendix competitors have comparable services, but they "do a very poor job of showing their value, even when their products are good," said Norton. "It's a big marketplace. What Mendix is very good at is capturing the imagination and showing [what's] possible."