Microsoft is looking to rally a community around a Power Fx low-code programming language that is now an open source project.
Announced at the Microsoft Ignite 2021 conference, the initiative is part of an effort to extend the reach of Power Fx that is already employed within Office 365 to other offerings such as Microsoft Dataverse, Microsoft Power Automate, and Microsoft Power Virtual Agents.
Power Fx traces its lineage back to a pair of Tangram and Siena projects that ultimately gave birth to a programming language that was first widely employed by users of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
Low code, no code ‘democratize technology’
Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the Cloud and AI group at Microsoft, told conference attendees Power Fx will play a major role in Microsoft’s efforts to democratize technology. There are a wide range of applications that can be built using low code and no-code tools that are metadata driven, said Guthrie.
In the case of Power Fx, professional developers that might be called to work on these applications at some point will still be able to directly edit apps in text editors such as Visual Studio Code and use source control tools, noted Guthrie.
In the meantime, there will still be a large swath of applications that will still require professional developers working with procedural code to build, so the need for professional developers won’t decline any time soon, added Guthrie. “It doesn’t replace the need to have those,” said Guthrie.
Microsoft is clearly trying to encourage power users of their applications to build applications without help from professional developers as much as possible. Those applications are crucial elements of an overall Microsoft cloud strategy that revolves around a robust developer community. Power Fx is simply an effort to expand the size of the developer community as Microsoft looks to expand consumption of Azure cloud services.
Application backlog drives low code
IT leaders have a vested interest in those efforts because the backlog of applications that are being requested continue to grow. Many of those requests are not especially complex applications that require or even warrant the expertise of a professional developer. Professional developers are both expensive to hire and retain and many of them are not especially interested in building routine workflow applications.
It’s not clear just how many power users there are that might be able to build applications using low-code and no-code tools. Application development still requires an ability to logically connect processes. In many cases, the user of a low-code or no-code tool is still a professional developer that finds using these tools enables them to build a simple application faster. The one thing those professional developers require most is an ability to drop down into procedural code if and when required.
That capability is, of course, also critical any time a power user builds an application. It’s probable, after all, that many of those power users will bite off more than they can proverbially build using a low-code tool, in which case many of these jobs could ultimately fall to professional developers to be completed.
Whatever the tool employed to build an application, the one thing that is certain is there will be a lot more customer applications that – for better or worse – will soon be deployed across the extended enterprise.