MBaaS refers to Mobile Backend as a Service. This is a fast growing *aaS segment, with more and more developers relying on these services for their apps. Parse was one the MBaaS providers in news few months ago when they got acquired by Facebook and many more providers are offering such services. Microsoft also entered into this market through their Windows Azure Mobile Services.
Any usable mobile app has some key services - authenticating user, sharing via social media, uploading or sharing picture or just notifications. These are usually referred to as back end services. Application developers do spend considerable amount of time implementing these functionalities. In most of the cases, it is not core product, or reinventing the wheel. What if such common functionalities are offered as services?
MBaaS does this - nicely packages these oft used functionalities as services that can be used across platforms, thereby making app developers' lives easier. Here are some of the functionalities provided. A list of some of the MBaaS providers that I know of is given at the end of the article. Please let me know if you'd like to add one.
Some common MBaaS Functionalities
Push Notifications - that new mail notification in your email app? New contact request in your favorite social media app? These are enabled by mechanism commonly known as Push Notifications, where a central server is pushing information to your mobile app. Any app with some real time updates will need this.
File Uploads - want to upload picture of your selfie? a double rainbow? No need to write code against Amazon S3 or create your own data store.
Social Sharing - what fun without sharing? If you want to build an app that you can share a picture 'on the line' [if you've watched 'The Internship' movie, you'll get it:)], you can do it few hours!
These are only few functionalities, each MBaaS provider has some unique functionalities to offer. Please check with them individually against your needs.I haven't included authentication services here, since most of the apps use kind of OAuth providers already.
List of MBaaS Providers
There's a score of MBaaS provides, each with their niche offerings, here is a list of some of them. I've personally tried Buddy and have been impressed with their services, SDK and support.
- Baas.Io - Korea based, launched by Korean Telecom
- Kinvey - One of the earliest MBaaS providers, well funded
- Parse - Acquired by Facebook
- StackMob - One of the early entrants, with an enterprise twist
- Buddy - Seattle based (yay!), supported by Microsoft Bing Fund (now called Microsoft Ventures)
- Appery - One of the earliest MBaaS providers
- CloudBase.io - provides NoSQL kind of database support too
For Mobile App Developers, MBaaS saves a lot of time and effort. Please choose the right one based on your requirements and needs. I see MBaaS is a level of abstraction on top of PaaS. I also see verticalized MBaaS - such as MBaaS for Gaming (Staq.io), but eventually merging into PaaS realm of capabilities. Windows Azure Mobile Services is a step towards that.