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ServicesAngle – Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS) All Hype or Here to Stay?


by Josette Rigsby

October 23, 2012

There seems to be an almost constant stream of innovation related to cloud computing and mobile technology. Some are little more than vendors’ and analysts’ conjecture, while others quickly demonstrate their staying power with rapid industry adoption, growing numbers of vendors and influxes of capital. It is unclear if mobile backend-as-a-service (MBaaS / Mobile BaaS) will be a success story or just a buzzword that everyone forgets before the next hype cycle begins.

What Is Mobile Backend as a Service?

Mobile backend-as-a-service (MBaaS / Mobile BaaS), as the name suggests, refers to solutions that provide pre-built, cloud hosted components for developing mobile application backends. These platforms reduce the time and complexity required to build mobile applications and allow developers to focus on core features instead of low-level tasks like virtual machine configuration or developing common functionality like user authentication or notifications that are necessary with infrastructure-a- a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings. MBaaS platforms are also unique from mobile enterprise application platforms (MEAPs) like Sybase’s Unified Platform and IBM Worklight, which tend to be traditional multi-layer software stacks that include backend components, middleware and client components instead of a cloud-based service.

According to Forrester, MBaaS offerings typically include:

  • Cloud-based storage for mobile data
  • Ability to automatic generate REST-based interfaces to read and write data
  • Internet optimized data access
  • User/security management tools
  • Usage analytics

In addition, many vendors also include features like single sign on or support for specialized integrations with devices or enterprise software packages.

The MBaaS Market and Players

MBaaS has a buzz worthy name, but it may be more than just marketing fluff. More and more market watchers and participants believe MBaaS addresses a real need – one that will exist as long as developers build mobile apps. Recent research from MarketsandMarkets projects MBaaS the market will expand from $216.5 million in 2012 to $7.7 billion in 2017. The report also discusses the factors that are spurring the expansion of MBaaS:

“The factors driving the overall market include increase in adoption of smart phones, tablets, demand for fast time to develop and deploy, ability to address security and performance needs and challenges in vendor selection.”

These factors driving MBaaS growth are almost identical to reasons cited for leveraging PaaS. This has caused many, including me, to question the need to classify MBaaS as a unique sector separate from the larger, more established PaaS market. According to Miko Matsumura, Senior Vice President Developer Relations, Kii Corporation, there is some validity to observation.

Matsumura said,

“If you’re only a “developer tool” style MBaaS you will definitely be consolidated by platform (PaaS) players as has always been the case historically. ‘Picks and shovels’ do really well during a gold rush, but as the market stabilizes, tools players need to either become platforms or merge with platform players.”

He further explained that he strongly believes there is a long-term place for MBaaS. However, for platforms to survive, they must have unique capabilities like monetization (a key feature in the Kii Corporation’s platform, which was recently released to public beta) that add obvious value for mobile developers.

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