Backend-as-a-Service: Bring Out Your Dead!

Michael Facemire
Vice President, Principal Analyst
January 30, 2016

Appcelerator was acquired by Axway. Parse (once acquired by Facebook) closes up shop. It’s been a busy week in the BaaS world. It all reminds me of the “Bring out your dead!” sketch in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, except this time it’s mobile development shops driving the cart looking for the last remnants of BaaS companies to throw on the pile! Yet it was only 3 years ago that the BaaS space came into the mainstream — what happened?

As an aside, my own career as an analyst started at the same time — my first research interview was with Kinvey, and my first webinar was with AnyPresence. (I take no credit for them being the last of the original pillars of the space ushering the next wave of Mobile Infrastructure Services — that’s just good business on their part!).   BaaS is dead. Forrester defines Mobile Infrastructure Services as the set of services required to support a mobile front-end strategy. Services such as data access normalization, mobile SDKs to wrap that data, and a secure container and data transport to get that data to the mobile device, among others. In 2012, companies had three options: build everything yourself, lock into a mobile middleware solution from traditional players like Antenna Software, IBM, Kony, SAP, and Verivo or roll the dice with a BaaS. At that time we called BaaS “Mobile’s New Middleware” because it changed the game for mobile. No longer did companies have to lock into long-term contracts with large on-premesis solutions — BaaS provided a lightweight, decoupled, pay-as-you-go solution that changed the market. But as with most market changes, everyone else adjusted or bought their way back in. BaaS — as a simple solution for building simple solutions targeted at long-tail indy developers while posturing for a future enterprise buyer — is no longer a viable offering.

Mobile Infrastructure Services highlight a converged mobile backend reality. Businesses now address mobile backend challenges with a customized buffet of options including API Management, low-code and no-code RAD tooling, mobile middleware, and mobile targeted solutions from cloud vendors like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft. The BaaS providers that have persevered only remain because they were out in front of this transition and offer multiple of these buffet options as a higher-order service. We recently published a market overview and a Wave on this converged space to help bring clarity to an increasingly confusing space.

Mobile services are stronger than ever. Recent acquisitions of BaaS solutions by Axway and Red Hat, along with new offerings and increased investment in mobile by heavyweights like Amazon and Microsoft reinforce the importance of mobile as a baseline internal and external requirement for all companies. I continue to work with our clients who come with stories about their mobile traffic eclipsing their desktop traffic, urgent requirements to mobilize their sales and field service forces, and a desire to do all of this faster while opening up new areas of innovation. None of this is possible without a well designed, architected, and implemented back-end. I’ve written about it with “Mobile Needs A 4-Tier Engagement Platform” and “The Dawn of Enterprise JavaScript”; I’ll continue this focus with a report on the modern application enterprise maturity model in the coming months. Enterprise mobility requirements are evolving and I’m happy to say that mobile solutions are evolving right along with them. I cannot wait to help usher in the next phase of that evolution! As always, if you have questions or want to chat about any of these topics, please reach out on twitter at @ASocialFace, or via email at mfacemire@forrester.com

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