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Google Cloud's new app platform aims for no-code edge

Google Cloud brings low-code application development and API management to its new Business Application Platform, but robotic process automation isn't yet in the mix.

Google has launched a new strategy to help non-programmers get involved with enterprise digital transformation efforts through no-code app development and API management tools.

The company recently introduced its Business Application Platform, which includes not only API management and no-code application development, but also automation and data insights to help developers create and extend applications, automate business workloads and modernize legacy applications.

The Business Application Platform brings together workflow automation, API management and no-code capabilities based on its acquisitions of Apigee and AppSheet. Expect Google to continue investing in new features, said Charlotte Dunlap, an analyst at GlobalData in Santa Cruz, Calif.: "No doubt Google's on the hunt for RPA [robotic process automation] technology next."

RPA is a gap in Google's platform compared with rivals such as Microsoft Power Platform and Power Automate, and IBM Cloud Pak for Automation, she added.

Microsoft acquired RPA software provider Softomotive in May to shore up its offerings in this critical area of application development, which helps users create bots that automate business processes.

In July, IBM bought Brazilian RPA vendor WDG Soluções Em Sistemas E Automação De Processos LTDA, also known as WDG Automation. The company's tools feature AI-infused automation that will augment IBM's existing automation capabilities.

Meanwhile, Google has an integration with RPA provider UiPath but lacks native RPA tools, Dunlap said.

That doesn't necessarily mean Google's approach is misguided, according to another analyst.

There are two ways to provide RPA capabilities, said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research. You can bolt it onto existing apps, which is what some traditional, standalone RPA vendors do. "The other is to build new apps that have RPA elements in them that span the silos that RPA tries to glue together -- then adding low-code/no-code app development," Mueller said. "The latter is what Google is doing. It makes sense."

Google plots Business Application Platform roadmap

Going forward, Google will add features such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, lifecycle management, security and productivity and collaboration to the Business Application Platform, said Amit Zavery, vice president and GM at Google Cloud.

The Business Application Platform version available now features the beta release of API Gateway, a service that helps developers build APIs for Google Cloud workloads and serverless back ends, Zavery said. The Business Application Platform is not just for citizen developers, but the Gateway's complexities are not exposed to them.

Based on the Envoy open source edge and service proxy designed for cloud-native applications, Google Cloud's API Gateway features authentication, key validation and rate limiting. Originally developed by Lyft, Envoy is a high-performance C++ distributed proxy designed for single services and applications, as well as large microservice architectures.

In addition, as part of the Business Application Platform launch, Google delivered the general availability of Apigee data source for AppSheet, which lets AppSheet users use Apigee APIs to build apps without coding.

Low-code development is a big factor in this trend and not all the big cloud vendors have a credible low-code story. Google does.
John BratincevicAnalyst, Forrester Research

The last piece of the Business Application Platform is the early access release of AppSheet Automation, which lets non-technical users to automate processes at scale, Zavery said.

These moves enable Google to continue to consolidate its overall automation strategy.

"Low-code development is a big factor in this trend, and not all the big cloud vendors have a credible low-code story. Google does," said John Bratincevic, an analyst at Forrester.

Some of the low-code/no-code vendors that focus on citizen developers are weak in workflow and process automation, while with AppSheet Automation Google can tout this as a competitive advantage, Bratincevic added.

Moreover, "AppSheet's laser focus on citizen developers and street cred with that community is unique among the big cloud vendors. That's a differentiator," Bratincevic said.

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