RAD, 4GL, MADP, RMAD, MXDP, LCDP, hpaPAAS . . . . What the?

RAD, 4GL, MADP, RMAD, MXDP, LCDP, hpaPAAS . . . . What the?

Without turning this into a lecture, below is a short overview of low-code, hpaPaas and other Rapid Application Development platforms that we have seen in the last few decades, more-or-less in chronological order.  What are the overlaps and differences between all these development tools and platforms?  Why should you care?

What is Computer Aided Software Engineering (CASE)?

CASE is the application of computer-assisted tools and methods in software development to ensure high-quality and defect-free software. CASE tools were at their peak in the early 1990s, based on the view that the application development cycle (AD/Cycle) is a distinct series of processes and steps, e.g. from business analysis and modelling, to development, implementation and version management.

What is Rapid Application Development (RAD)?

RAD is a software development methodology which heavily emphasizes rapid prototyping and iterative delivery. First introduced in 1991 by James Martin, RAD was a response to plan-driven waterfall processes, developed in the 70s and 80s. Today RAD is mostly used as a generic term, not referring to the book by James Martin of the same name. RAD falls under the category of agile development techniques.

What is a Fourth Generation Language (4GL)?

A 4GL is a programming language that is on a higher abstraction level (closer to human language) than those of the third, second and first generation. 4GLs are designed to reduce the overall effort and cost of software development.

The other language generations can be expressed as follows:

  • 1GL: Executable machine language, binary language, closest to the hardware.
  • 2GL: Assembly language are mostly used for low-level kernels and performance-oriented applications, such as computer games.
  • 3GL: Third generation languages use English words to denote variables, commands and more. 3GL source code is converted by a compiler to object code (machine or intermediate language). Most of the general-purpose programming languages used today, such as the .NET languages (C, C++, C#), Java and JavaScript are 3GLs.
  • 5GL:  Fifth-generation languages are used mainly in artificial intelligence environments. Prolog, OPS5 and Mercury are examples of fifth-generation languages.

What is a Mobile Application Development Platform (MADP)?

MADP is a combination of technologies and services that together enable an organization to design, develop, test, deploy, distribute and manage a portfolio of mobile apps. The term MADP is generally credited to the research firm, Gartner, who coined it around 2014.

What is Rapid Mobile App Development (RMAD)?

Gartner, in 2017, described it as, “Rapid mobile app development (RMAD) tools are a class of high-productivity development tools that enable non-programmers (and developers without mobile experience) to build mobile apps using little to no code, to support, at a minimum, iOS and Android mobile devices.”

What is a Multi-Experience Development Platform (MXDP)?

As defined by Gartner, “MXDP offers professional and citizen developers a range of front-end development tools and back-end services that enable rapid, scalable development of seamless, targeted and ambient user experiences across devices and channels.”

What is a Digital Experience Development Platform (DXDP)?

Forrester’s DXDP is basically the same as Gartner’s MXDP.  Forrester’s definition of DXDP is: “A software platform that enables organizations to rapidly create an integrated portfolio of digital experiences across a variety of end user channels.”

What is Low-Code Development Platform (LCDP)?

Low-code is a way to design and develop software rapidly and with minimal hand-coding.  Forrester Research coined the term ‘Low-code’ in 2014 and described it as development platforms that “enable rapid delivery of business applications with a minimum of hand-coding and minimal upfront investment in setup, training and deployment.”

What is High Productivity Application Platform as a Service (hpaPaas)?

hpaPaas is basically RAD in the cloud (instead of RAD on-premises). Analyst firm Gartner introduced the term in 2017 when it first released its Magic Quadrant of the same name. Gartner states “hpaPaaS provides rapid application development (RAD) features for development, deployment and execution — in the cloud. The RAD features are often referred to as “low-code” and “no-code” support.”

What are the overlaps?

Low-code and hpaPaas

Since all low-code vendors offer cloud and PaaS options, the vendors in Gartner’s hpaPaaS Magic Quadrant and Forrester’s low-code Wave are almost completely overlapping.  Basically, Gartner and Forrester are using a different name for the same phenomenon.  Low-code is easier to pronounce than hpaPaaS, so in this article we will just refer to low-code.


These are all focused on providing front-ends to existing back-end applications with which they communicate, usually via web services.  MADP (for professional developers) and RMAD (for citizen developers) provide native mobile front-ends. MXDPs and DXPDs  provide mobile responsive web front-ends, suitable for access from multiple devices, and may also include chat experiences (e.g., Cortana, Google Assistant, and Siri), connected home devices (e.g. Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, Google Home), augmented reality/virtual reality, voice, and embedded web experiences (e.g., Electron).

With the maturing of HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and RESTful API technologies, the boundary between web and mobile development has largely disappeared. So, the MADPs and RMADS may diminish in importance in favor of MXDPs and DXDPs.

RAD and 4GL

RAD platforms may include a 4GL.  Other components that RAD platforms may include are tools for modelling, prototyping, version management and more.

With the all these somewhat boring definitions out of the way, you may be more interested to read:

By Marjanna Frank

Marjanna is responsible for LANSA’s sales and marketing activities in Asia Pacific. Her career started as a COBOL and RPG programmer in the Netherlands, followed by 10 years as a developer, analyst and founding partner at PT Sistima, a small software house in Indonesia, which offered general IT services and its own localized ERP solution. After moving to Sydney, Australia, Marjanna joined Aspect Computing and later LANSA, where her initial responsibilities included developing training materials, consulting on data warehousing projects, developing content such as case studies, blogs and the LANSA Review magazine.

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