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AWS Amplify as low-code for infrastructure

[PLACEHOLDER]

Low-code development platforms are dominating many conversations lately. Many believe that low-code development platforms will account for millions of USD in revenue in the next five (5) years. An article by Forbes highlights that “it will account for more than 65% of application development activity by 2024”. Some believe it will be the answer to all their development needs.


 But low-code is not a new concept. The difference now is that its audience has amplified. For developers (or even advanced users) who have been in the Microsoft  ecosystem for a while have already experienced the assembly of software solutions with little effort using tools such as Microsoft Excel, Access, Visual Studio (assembling forms) and others.

Putting Microsoft aside, and prior to this “low-code revolution” which has reached high altitude in the last couple of years, there have been many online veterans which allow a user to assemble simple to medium complexity applications in different areas:

  • Marketing automation with low to no code
  • Websites
  • Database management
  • AI
  • Work management
  • e-commerce
  • Others
- Microsoft, Mendix, Salesforce, Wix -
-   Zoho, outsystems, Stripe, Shopify  -

 

Before we go any further with this article let us answer the question of what is a low-code/no-code platform? 

Low-code/no-code is a platform that provides non-technical, and technical users the tools to develop applications that are operational (at least at a “vanilla state”), or require additional coding for specific elements, with less effort (and knowledge) that is needed for the traditional way of producing code. The LCDP (Low Code Development Platforms) creates applications using a graphical interface, which the consumer uses for assembling the desired functionalities.

The focus of this article

In this article I will focus on one of my own experiences under the low-code umbrella where I leveraged cloud computing services. I chose Amazon AWS services in the space of “code as infrastructure”. The three (3) items I would like to highlight before we start:

  1. This falls into the low-code end that requires expertise
  2. We are focusing on “code as infrastructure”, with fewer lines of code possible. This is to accelerate and facilitate the DevOps for some app use cases
  3. If you are looking for the no code/low code solutioning, similar to Microsoft PowerApps from Amazon AWS then I suggest to look at Amazon HoneyCode

The problem statement in our hands was to build a webapp (mobile first) as a gift to our colleagues. The pandemic has brought many challenges around the globe and we wanted to let our team members abroad know that we were here for them. Without going into details, the solution was inspired by the #virtualhug movement. As we continued working on our concept, we landed on the following paragraph that defined the app: “A virtual hug a day, keeps the sorrow away! Just the act of imagining that you are hugging someone can make you feel positive, empathetic and less stressed.” 

The premise was to deliver this webapp in seven (7) days, easy to deploy, but without spending too much time on setting the deployment architecture. There was no Content Management System (CMS) system in place, but it should be quick and easy to make content updates. Those updates should reflect on production relatively quickly for our audience to view on the webapp.

We had a core team of three (3) people for this delivery: 

  1. A project manager (PM) for coordination
  2. A designer, to help me in bringing the concept into the webapp Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  3. Me as the sponsor and developer

As I said before, I needed to reduce efforts on the development and the deployment. Therefore I turned to Amazon AWS for a "serverless" approach, and with the hope to find my answers for an easy deployment process.

The stack that we ended up using was:

  • NuxtJS
  • AWS S3
  • AWS Amplify
  • AWS CloudFormation
  • Microsoft Visual Code as the editor

The hero of this article is AWS Amplify, which took care of many lines of code, which without a tool like this, I would have had to write in order to set up “code as infrastructure” and host the webapp.

Note: This is not a blog for teaching AWS Amplify and Cloudformation. If you are looking for that then I would recommend the ThemePark course provided by Amazon AWS: https://www.eventbox.dev/published/lesson/innovator-island/0-introduction/1-overview.html 

Checkpoint...

If you have reached this point of the article then you might be thinking “this looks advanced, where is the low-code in this stack!?”. I want to remind you that this article is focusing on the DevOps aspect. I hope things are a bit clearer as you read the next few paragraphs.

What is AWS Amplify?

Based on Amazon AWS definition: “AWS Amplify is a set of tools and services that can be used together or on their own, to help front-end web and mobile developers build scalable full stack applications, powered by AWS. With Amplify, you can configure app backends and connect your apps in minutes, deploy static web apps in a few clicks, and easily manage app content outside the AWS console. Amplify supports popular web frameworks including JavaScript, React, Angular, Vue, Next.js, and mobile platforms including Android, iOS, React Native, Ionic, Flutter.”

How did we leverage AWS Amplify for the deployment, in a low-code approach?

I followed the vanilla commands after creating the required AWS Role using the AWS Management Console, and installing the AWS Amplify-CLI on my laptop, where my project resided. With it I was able to have within minutes:

  1. Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline
  2. CI/CD connected to my code repository, which is on Bitbucket (outside of AWS)
  3. Hosting the app in an UAT environment leveraging the AWS S3 bucket
  4. The CloudFormation which is used for the “code as infrastructure” for the provisioning

The provisioning, and the many scripts, and the integrations, were all made with just a few command line prompts removing hours of me putting together this code pipeline.




 Finally, it was great to see that we exceeded our expectations as we were able to successfully deploy the webapp to production two (2) days earlier, shrinking our timeline from seven (7) to five (5) days.


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Agreed