To Code or Not to Code? That is the question!

Last week I wrote about how Microsoft, with their latest version of Visual Studio LightSwitch, is providing cloud development options for developers who may not be primarily coders. To this point one could make a case that that particular segment of the PaaS market has been largely dominated by Force.com. Therefore it caught my attention this week when Force.com announced that they had just passed the milestone of having over one billion lines of Apex code deployed to production environments!

Force.com offers a highly productive development and deployment platform where sophisticated business applications can be created without code using a declarative point-and-click interface. When additional functionality or a higher degree of control is required, however, Force.com provides the Apex programming language. Apex is similar in syntax to Java or C# and should seem very familiar to programmers who have worked with either of those languages. The key term here, though, is programmers. To use Apex effectively there is no avoiding the inevitable; you have to roll up your sleeves and write some code!

Getting started with Apex is relatively quick and painless and it is free. You just need to sign up for a login to the Salesforce.com Developer Edition. You can write code right in the browser interface or you can install the Force.com IDE plug-in for Eclipse.

This screencast demonstrates creating some simple Apex code (“Hello World!”) and running it on Force.com.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ni79052vkUU&hl=en&fs=1]

Obviously you would do something more complicated than this in real life. In fact Force.com recommends using the powerful declarative development environment first and then dropping down into Apex code only when necessary. With over 1,000,000,000 lines of production code deployed, however, it seems to be necessary in a large number of real world applications!

My belief is that ultimately programmers will always be required to create customizations and business logic that goes beyond what is possible using visual tools. The demise of programmers has been predicted several times by different pundits over the years but it has never really turned out that way. Programming skills will most likely always be in demand. The cloud has not changed that. If anything the cloud will increase the demand for people who can write programs and who can learn to adapt their skills quickly to ever changing paradigms. The more things change the more they stay the same.

Learning Tree offers several programming courses in multiple programming languages. Whether you are a beginning programmer or an old hand these courses can help you increase your knowledge, your marketability and your value to your organization. Good luck and may all your bugs be easily squashed!

Kevin

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