In an era where digital acceleration is not just a buzzword but a business imperative, the significance of Low-Code Application Platforms (LCAPs) as digital acceleration enablers has skyrocketed.
The most powerful LCAPs such as Mendix, OutSystems, Appian, Microsoft, Salesforce and ServiceNow have been consistently recognized in the the Leaders category of Gartner's Magic Quadrant, with Mendix gaining the position of the best low-code platform in 2023.
We've already compared the features of Mendix and OutSystems and Mendix and Appian. In this article, we will explore the nuances of Mendix and PowerApps, comparing their functionalities, ease of use, integration capabilities, and overall suitability for different enterprise scenarios.
Different platforms, same philosophy
Founded in 2005, Mendix is a robust high-productivity software platform designed for extensive development cycles. It encompasses everything from initial idea conception to development, testing, deployment, and even ongoing monitoring and control. For a deeper understanding of what Mendix is and how it can help your business, you can find further details in this article.
Microsoft's PowerApps also offers a dynamic low-code platform tailored for building and deploying custom business applications. Launched in 2015, it streamlines the app development process, making it accessible from initial design to final deployment, including customization and integration. PowerApps is particularly known for its seamless integration with other Microsoft services and data sources, enhancing its utility in various business environments.
Both Mendix and PowerApps share the goal of democratizing software development and making development accessible to all, regardless of their technical expertise.
Mendix strives to close the divide between business and IT by enabling everyone to become a creator. It provides an Integrated Development Environment (IDE), which facilitates easy development and seamless integration with various software platforms and technologies.
Also PowerApps focuses on empowering business users and developers alike by providing a user-friendly, low-code platform that simplifies the development of apps. This approach helps bridge the gap between professional developers and non-technical users, allowing for a more collaborative and efficient development process.
Differences in user interfaces between Mendix vs. Power Apps
Mendix offers an intuitive and adaptable interface that simplifies customization. Its user-friendly drag-and-drop development environment, coupled with visual modeling and prototyping capabilities, allows for quick development of solutions. The platform includes a range of collaboration tools underpinned by Agile Workflows, promoting iterative development complemented by built-in feedback and communication features. Furthermore, these functionalities are augmented by continuous DevOps support and efficient version control systems.
On the other hand, the interface elements offered by Power Apps are "raw" and do not have full control over their styling. Power Apps offer two types of applications, Model-driven Apps and Canvas Apps. Styling Canvas Apps and Model-driven apps can be sometimes challenging. Model-driven applications impose many restrictions regarding appearance, which is particularly suboptimal for B2B/B2C portals. We cannot freely design forms, lists, or dashboards. Users can only decide which fields we want to see on the list, which on the detailed view, and which components should appear on the dashboard. Canvas Apps offer more freedom in terms of views and styling capabilities but even in the case of Canvas Apps, achieving a high-quality user interface can be problematic. Moreover, Canvas Apps were definitely not created with the idea of building comprehensive applications in mind because of fewer options of implementing business logic. Microsoft explicitly advises against using Canvas Apps for complex cases.
Implementing business logic
Mendix offers a single, consistent way of implementing business logic. Unlike Power Apps, Mendix has one visual way of defining business rules and actions for both - server-side and client-side processes.
The developer can create microflows (server-side) and nanoflows (client-side) using BPMN-like visual notation which is easy to understand for new team members and even business users. You can see an example of such microflow here.
What is more, in Mendix 9, Siemens introduced Workflows, which are great for orchestrating groups of tasks involving multiple users. Workflows operate on a higher level but still leverage the same, visual and intuitive approach to the parameterization. You can see an example of such a workflow here.
In Power Apps, creating logic and views using data from any ERP system will require a different approach and will be more complicated. In Canvas applications, business logic is implemented using functions similar to Excel. Functions are executed on the client-side (browser) and should be simple (according to MS recommendation). Model-driven applications have more possibilities, but there are as many as seven ways to implement business logic – each has a different application and functions differently. All seven methods trigger business logic execution on the "client" side of the application, not on the server side. In cases where it is necessary to run business logic on the server side, users must introduce an eighth method - Power Automate. At the same time, Power Apps does not have the appropriate tools to maintain a high level of solution transparency with complex business logic.
When choosing a platform, it's crucial to check not only whether a tool can connect to the required data source but also how quickly and comfortably a developer can work with the obtained data, creating logic or views.
Mobile apps development approaches
Mendix stands out in mobile app development with its integration of React Native. This collaboration leverages the strengths of React Native's open-source framework, allowing developers to craft offline-first mobile apps that deliver a native-like experience and performance, supported by a vast community of developers and libraries.
Power Apps relies on hybrid technology which means that applications you create are in fact websites that run inside of a native shell with an embedded web browser. That simplifies the toolchain but compromises on user experience. In many situations, a slightly slower response or less fluent interface doesn't interfere with day-to-day work. The speed of development and compatibility, however, bring significant value to the organization.
For a long time, it was impossible for Power Apps users to deploy mobile applications as standalone apps that could be published in the App Store and Google Play. This recently changed although the feature considers only canvas apps and is still in the Preview state which means it's production-ready. In addition, as opposed to Mendix, Power Apps does not offer access to the source code of mobile applications. You can’t use Xcode or Android Studio to combine native code with what has been generated by the low-code platform.
Extensibility and custom development
Mendix provides developers with three ways to enhance their applications: utilizing pre-built add-ons from the marketplace, implementing custom-developed Mendix modules, and incorporating custom code. The Mendix Marketplace is a rich source of thousands of connectors, widgets, and services, enabling integration with well-known systems and services such as SAP, ChatGPT, or Amazon, without the need for custom code and direct API interactions.
In terms of custom coding, there are three key areas to focus on: the frontend, backend, and mobile development. For the frontend, Mendix is compatible with the widely-used React.js framework. Developers can either employ one of the numerous UI widgets available in the marketplace or create their own from the ground up. For backend processes, Java, another widely-used programming language, can be utilized and integrated directly into the application's source code. For extending native mobile applications, options include using React Native or coding specifically for the target platform, be it Android or iOS.
In Mendix, you start with Atlas UI with full customization capabilities (CSS) and layout. It is also possible to embed your own components from the world's most popular library for creating front-end applications - React.js (similar to Power Apps, although the function is still in the experimental phase). Thanks to easy integration with React.js, it is possible to embed ready-made and advanced visual components.
Power Apps officially do not yet support simultaneous work of multiple developers through version control. This function is in the experimental phase for Canvas and Model-driven Apps.
Mendix has had full support for the Git version control system for years and allows for the independent work of multiple developers - similar to regular programming. At the same time, in Mendix, it is possible to create your own modules and use many ready-made ones available in the Mendix store.
In Power Apps, there is no concept of modules. The entire application is a monolith consisting of a mix of views, functions, processes, and business rules placed in different locations.
Documentation and learning
Mendix's documentation is well-established, consistently updated, and thorough. The Mendix Academy, which is freely accessible to all, provides four distinct learning paths: Rapid, Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert. This resource makes it straightforward to locate detailed guidance for a variety of scenarios, including undertaking scalable deployments to private clouds, creating custom widgets, or developing mobile applications with offline-first capabilities.
Power Apps documentation is extensive, and Microsoft also offers many learning paths to choose from, although identifying the ones related to Power Apps is not always easy. Considering the dynamic development of the Power Platform, documentation is not always up-to-date and sometimes does not cover newly implemented changes. This is because Power Platform is a much less mature platform, and Microsoft is still working on crucial features like co-developing, mobile apps with offline access, PDF generation, and more.
Mendix is highly scalable, thanks to its "cloud-native" characteristics, which have included support for Linux containers for an extended duration. This prolonged experience with industry-standard toolsets like Docker or Kubernetes, has allowed Mendix to enhance and perfect its containerization approaches continually. As a result, Mendix now offers a solid and well-developed solution for deploying applications at scale. It is important to remember that scalability may vary depending on the deployment model. Apps built with Mendix can be hosted in the private cloud, on-premises, or Mendix Cloud. On-premises allows only for vertical scalability.
With Power Platform, Microsoft remains true to its philosophy of zero-maintenance infrastructure. Power Apps and other tools of Power Platforms are hosted and fully managed by Microsoft. That allows for a quick development kick-off and easy roll-out but detracts from scalability. There are strict limitations regarding the computing power your business logic can utilize. Nonetheless, the big advantage of this approach is that staying within the limits guarantees stability and good performance. You don’t have to worry about the number of CPUs or RAM dedicated to your environment.
Mendix stands out for its ability to integrate effortlessly with existing systems, leveraging its array of connectors and pre-built integrations. Developers have a wide array of integration options, such as REST API, SOAP API, ODBC, OData, and more. Once the integration is set up, a developer can work with external data in the same way as with internal and native entities of the application domain model. This brings a new quality to the process of creating complex integrations.
The launch of Mendix 10 introduced a novel feature, Mendix Connect, enabling the discovery and exploration of data resources across the connected ecosystem. For more complex, enterprise-level integrations, Mendix provides a dedicated component called Data Hub, offering enhanced governance and easier management for comprehensive Mendix implementations. These integration capabilities underscore Mendix's proficiency in integrating with the broader enterprise IT environment.
For data storage, Mendix supports various databases, including MariaDB, Microsoft SQL Server, Azure SQL, MySQL, Oracle Database, PostgreSQL, and SAP HANA. This flexibility benefits organizations preferring private cloud deployment, as they can leverage existing databases for cost efficiency and improved performance.
Power Apps integrates best with Microsoft data stores like SharePoint lists and Datavers. It is possible to connect with many other data sources using Connectors (some of them are premium). Still, the data are not treated as an element of the application domain model. To bring external data to Power Apps, developers usually use Power Automate workflows that can execute REST API calls, and SQL queries or Dataflows that provide long lists of supported data sources. Like in the case of scalability, there are some limitations regarding the amount of data you can process and store using the Dataflow service. Visit Microsoft documentation to learn more.
Differences in pricing
Regarding pricing, Mendix presents an adaptable approach, accommodating various requirements. This adaptability also reflects in its deployment choices, offering organizations the option to deploy on-premises, in a private cloud, or via Mendix Cloud, which provides several vendor alternatives. Read this article to get a clearer perspective on Mendix's pricing structure,
The pricing for PowerApps, as of 2023, includes a variety of plans to suit different business needs. However, the Microsoft solution, according to the official price list, is more expensive than Mendix. The PowerApps Premium plan is tailored for businesses seeking predictable, user-based licensing with the flexibility to run unlimited applications. This plan allows licensed users to build, modernize, and deploy unlimited applications with AI Builder credits and dataverse entitlements included.
Mendix vs. PowerApps – make the right choice
Both Mendix and PowerApps offer unique features and strengths, tailored to different business needs and development objectives. While Mendix has been a long-standing leader in the field, PowerApps brings the immense backing and integration capabilities of the Microsoft ecosystem.
In conclusion, the choice between Mendix and Power Apps hinges on a variety of factors, each with its own strengths and limitations. Mendix, with its user-friendly interface, streamlined business logic implementation, and robust mobile app development capabilities using React Native, stands out for its scalability and integrative power.
Power Apps, on the other hand, is more suited for simpler application development, especially for businesses already embedded in the Microsoft ecosystem. However, its limitations in user interface customization, complex business logic implementation, and mobile app development, as well as the lack of extensive modularity and version control, make it less versatile than Mendix.
Ultimately, the decision between Mendix and Power Apps should be based on specific business requirements, technical capabilities, and the desired level of application complexity and integration. Both platforms offer unique advantages, but Mendix appears to be more suited for enterprises looking for a comprehensive, scalable, and customizable solution, while Power Apps is more aligned with businesses seeking a simple, quick-to-deploy solution within the Microsoft framework.