Overview Of The Backend as a Service (BaaS) Space

Prepared By Kin Lane

May 2013

Table of Contents

  • Backend as a Service
    • What is BaaS?
    • How Does BaaS Differ From IaaS and PaaS?
    • What Are The Benefits of BaaS?
    • What Can You Build With BaaS?
  • Who Are The Top BaaS Providers?
  • What Are The Common Building Blocks of BaaS?
  • What Are the Common Approaches to BaaS Pricing?
  • What Are The Other Approaches to BaaS Pricing?
  • Who Are The Other BaaS Providers?
  • Watch Out As 1000lb Gorillas Set Their Sights on BaaS Space!
  • What Makes BaaS Relevant to APIs?
  • The Future Is About Virtualized Mobile Operating Systems
  • Investment in BaaS
  • What Are The Opportunities in BaaS?
  • Summing Up BaaS
  • Appendix A: Full List of BaaS Features
  • Appendix B: Curated News Sources


Backend as a Service

There is an emerging trend in mobile application development, that people are calling backend as a service (BaaS), also known sometimes known as mobile backend as a service (MBaaS). With the growth in the number of mobile devices like iPhone from Apple, Android from Google, Windows Phones from Microsoft and the historic contender Blackberry, a number of BaaS providers are emerging to meet the demand for building, deploying and managing the mobile app life-cycle.

What is BaaS?

BaaS is an approach for providing web and mobile app developers with a way to connect their applications to backend cloud storage and processing while also providing common features such as user management, push notifications, social networking integration, and other features that mobile users demand from their apps these days.

This new breed of BaaS services are provided via custom software development kits (SDK) and application programming interfaces (APIs). BaaS is a relatively recent development in cloud computing, with most BaaS start-ups dating from 2011 or later. The global BaaS market is estimated to grow from $216.5 million in 2012 to $7.7 billion in 2017 from a report published by MarketsandMarkets.

How Does BaaS Differ From IaaS and PaaS?

Baas has evolved out of frustration around deployment of IaaS platforms like Amazon Web Services, just to fire up a single new mobile application--accompanied with the fact that the traditional PaaS offerings have not stayed on top of what is needed for mobile developers. BaaS is about abstracting away the complexities of launching and managing your own infrastructure, then bridging a stack of meaningful resources targeting exactly what developers need to build the next generation of mobile apps.

BaaS, has a lot of the same intent as PaaS, to speed up the application development process, but BaaS is purely a backend, providing an infrastructure that automatically scales and optimizes, bundled with a set of essential resources developers require, like content, data, messaging tools and all best 3rd party, API driven services they are used to like Facebook, Twitter and Dropbox.  

What Are The Benefits of BaaS?

BaaS is all about making developers lives easier. BaaS is born out of a shortage of mobile developer talent and an overwhelming demand for high quality mobile apps, not just on iOS, but across Android, Windows and Blackberry devices.  

BaaS Delivers:

  • Efficiency Gains - Reducing overhead in all aspects of mobile app development, increasing efficiency at all stages of development
  • Faster Times to Market - Reducing the obstacles to take a mobile app from idea to production and overhead with operations once in production
  • App Delivery With Fewer Resources - BaaS supports development with fewer developers and supporting data and IT resources
  • Optimize for Mobile and Tablets - BaaS providers have put a lot of time and resources into optimization of data and network for mobile apps, and reduce fragmentation problems across multiple platforms and devices.
  • Secure and Scalable Infrastructure - BaaS provides a bundled infrastructure that deals with scalability, security, performance and other operational headaches, leaving developers to do what they do best
  • Stack of Common API resources - BaaS brings common and essential 3rd party API resources into a single stack, preventing developers from having to go gather them separately

BaaS tends to reflect what is consider to be a no-ops development environment that allows companies and developers focus just on building the best applications with the most unique feature set.  All of the infrastructure deployment and management that is historically associated with developing applications is abstracted away into a single backend platform.

What Can You Build With BaaS?

While BaaS is primarily focused on mobile application development, the approach has characteristics that can easily be used across multiple areas of development:

  • Web Development - While BaaS is focused on mobile application development, it provides a much more flexible approach to development web applications. It provides all the opportunity of PaaS, with less interface restrictions, just a meaningful stack of resources to build  variety of web apps.
  • Mobile Apps - BaaS is designed with developing mobile apps in mind.  BaaS providers are focusing on optimizing data for mobile, bringing together essential resources like geo-location, social, places and other critical elements of mobile apps.
  • Readers - Publishing to Kindle and other devices that are intended to support the world of book and magazine publishing.  Devices like Kindle, Nook and other healthcare or education specific devices are emerging and being driven by BaaS
  • Launch APIs - BaaS platforms provide easy to deploy API frameworks as part of their data and object stores. BaaS provides a quick way to launch APIs and other infrastructure around data and resources, potentially making it available to mobile or web developers

What is possible with BaaS varies depending on the platform provider, but we are starting to see some common building blocks emerge from the 40+ BaaS providers on the landscape currently.

BaaS is a natural response to software development being moved into the cloud, and the decoupling of common resources into individual APIs.  In 2013 we know we need our platforms to perform and scale in the cloud, while bringing the resources we depend on into meaningful sets that we can efficiently build apps around, without having to go gather them from around the web.