The basic concept of BaaS is to make it easier to develop applications by simplifying the coding of “backend” functions (server-facing). This involves reusable code, including access to code repositories such as GitHub, to minimize duplicative coding tasks. The backend providers also offer functionality such as: storage, user authentication, push notifications, security, access to various preconfigured services and, in some cases, various levels of user, or application, management.
The field has attracted a number of relatively small, emerging players, as well as some larger companies. Microsoft, for example, in late August 2012 announced cloud backend capability called Windows Azure Mobile Services, which initially only supports Windows 8, but is expected to also support iOS and Android later.
Appcelerator offers its Titanium Platform which it states has been used by 300,000 developers to deploy over 50,000 applications (native iOS and Android apps, and HTML5 mobile web apps) on 75 million devices. In early 2012 it acquired Cocoafish, cross-platform BaaS provider, which now is part of Appcelerator Cloud Services.
Apigee offers an “API platform” for enterprises to transform existing services into APIs for use by developers in creating apps. An example of their approach is AT&T, which states that Apigee has helped them to “decouple the layers of our network and expose platform capabilities via APIs.”
Other providers of BaaS include: Parse, StackMob, Kinvey. We look at two of the emerging companies in the field, FeedHenry and CloudMine, as examples of different approaches and insights on BaaS and the mobile cloud.
In FeedHenry’s view the mobile cloud spans two diverse developments or trends. One is the mobile phenomenon with mobile devices replacing laptops and even PCs. It views this element as “where information is consumed.” The second trend is the development of the cloud. It describes the cloud as “where information comes from.”
These are, in the company’s view two very different worlds, with cloud computing focused on integration with legacy systems and mobile focused on providing functionality for devices within many limiting parameters.
It views the mobile cloud and mobile apps as more of an “evolution of IT” rather than a telecom area. It states that innovation emanates from the device manufacturers and then moves to the software developers.
FeedHenry focuses on the enterprise market, but does offer hosted solutions for SMBs. The company states that it provides for a number of functions:
- Development of Apps. Using its App Studio for creating HTML5 and hybrid apps
- Deployment. Deploying the app to the device (or to an app store), and the server-side code to the cloud, “in a single push”
- App Management. Offering its App Manager which provides a range of management functionality
It views the enterprise market as having different objectives than the consumer market. In the consumer market, it states, that the app itself is the focus. However, in business, it regards the issue as not revolving around whether the app will be virally popular but whether it can provide a solution to a business problem or challenge.
It provides its BaaS platform for iOS and Android developers and may cover Windows 8 as well. It sees the need for native versus HTML5 development as a receding issue, in which some apps must be optimized to run really well on a single platform, whereas with others that run across platforms, HTML5 provides cost advantages.
FeedHenry is also making a significant push into the MAM field.
In CloudMine’s view, developers are favoring iOS over Android by a wide margin, as much as 3:1. They attribute this to the ability to monetize iOS apps and a better user experience. They also find that video and push notification in HTML5 are not equal to iOS. They express some potential interest in Windows 8, but don’t see significant interest in Win products among developers currently.
CloudMine focuses on the enterprise market. They deal largely with corporate product areas (LOBs) or R&D directors as customers, as well as in-house or contract developers.