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Let’s talk about Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS)

Let’s talk about Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS)

Cloud Computing

Mobile Backend as a Service(MBaaS), also known as “backend as a service” (BaaS), is a model for providing web and mobile app developers with a way to link their applications to backend cloud  storage and APIs exposed by back end applications while also providing features such as user management, push notifications, and integration with social networking services.

Basically, MBaaS is a cloud computing category which includes companies that make it easier for developers to setup, use and operate a cloud backend for their mobile, tablet and web apps.

The general idea of MBaaS is that mobile apps need common services that can be shared among apps instead of being custom developed for each. Mobile apps using MBaaS follow a loosely coupled distributed architecture, and MBaaS systems themselves typically have more distributed architectures than MEAP (mobile enterprise application platforms) systems, which tended to be unified middleware servers.

Enterprise oriented MBaaS

MBaaS providers tend to split into one of two categories: consumer MBaaS or enterprise MBaaS. The first one focuses mostly on “lighter” brand apps and games, while the last it’s about mobilizing sensitive, business-critical data from enterprise systems.

Enterprise MBaaS systems typically provide push notifications, file storage and sharing, integration with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, location services, messaging and chat functions, user management, the ability to run business logic, and usage analysis tools. Also, enterprise-oriented MBaaS systems provide integration with existing applications and databases.

At the same time, enterprise focused MBaaS systems provide some level of mobile client support. This ranges from exposing REST APIs to providing app generation for iOS, Android, some flavors of JavaScript, and perhaps other mobile platforms.

In addition, MBaaS systems provide a combination of online and desktop development environments. Finally, back-end services are intended to be in continuous operation, so they need a level of application monitoring and error logging in addition to usage analysis. Monitoring and analytics might be provided directly by the MBaaS vendor or through integration with a third-party service.

Last but not least, MBaaS systems can generate mobile SDKs (software development kits). This is most useful when a vendor is exposing its services to partners doing mobile app development. In addition, MBaaS systems can support offline operation of their mobile apps and offline/online database synchronization.

In order to better understand how MBaaS systems work, have a look at some examples:

  • AnyPresenceThe goal of AnyPresence is not only to help enterprises build back ends for their mobile apps. AnyPresence combines app building, back-end services, and an API gateway. AnyPresence has an online designer that generates back-end code, mobile app code, and even customized mobile API code. All the generated code can be downloaded, edited, and run on compatible platforms.
  • FeedHenryWith a focus on supporting enterprise line-of-business apps, FeedHenry is a Node.js-based, enterprise-oriented MBaaS and mobile application platform. It has a wide array of integrations, both online and offline development options, collaborative app building, and a drag-and-drop form builder. FeedHenry was spun off from the Irish Research Institute in 2010 and acquired by Red Hat in September 2014.
  • AppceleratorAppcelerator Titanium has been a player in the mobile development space for several years, with a local development environment that compiles JavaScript to native code for iOS, Android, and other targets. With Appcelerator, developers can see a quick overview of app installs, sessions, API calls, and crashes in the online Appcelerator dashboard overview page. Other parts of the dashboard allow for cloud management, testing, performance metrics, and analytics.

As mobile technologies continue evolving there has been an increasing need to move from isolated product offerings to more complete multi-feature platforms. MBaaS platforms are likely to evolve as part of a broader enterprise mobile offering strategy, so make sure you’re up to date with the latest technologies.

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