In 1995, Clayton Christenson coined the term Disruptive Innovations in his article titled "Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave." His contention was that some new products or services that appear in the marketplace are so revolutionary that they render existing technologies obsolete. We are seeing a new example of this phenomenon with the emergence of a sector being referred to as "Backend as a Service"—BaaS. BaaS is replacing the traditional server-side stack as a dependable, feature-rich option for powering mobile and web apps.
Sidelining the competition
Proponents of existing technologies may initially perceive new innovations to be no more than novelties, which is the power of the disruptive innovation! The Ford Model T is an excellent example from the early 20th century. Adoption was slow at first, but the new car’s affordability and utility eventually caused it to displace the horse and buggy as the standard method of transportation. More recently, we saw the cassette tape replace the 8-track, the iPod replace the Walkman, and the iPhone replace the iPod.
Why is a mobile backend as a service good for developers?
Traditionally, setting up a backend typically consumes half or more of the app development cycle, taking months to build and requiring a team of specialized developers. By taking advantage of BaaS, developers can bring their apps to market faster than ever before - as much as 50% faster in many cases.
From the developer’s perspective, BaaS cuts out the worst part of building mobile and web apps. Because BaaS is just another API that your app interacts with, if you’re already using other RESTful APIs, you’re halfway there.
And it means that we front-end developers don't have to get bogged down in all kinds of server side nonsense. I for one don't want to have to worry about Linux, Apache, Tomcat servers, setting up databases, and on and on. Not when BaaS has already solved it for me with an API. As a developer, I’m empowered and can focus on what matters most - the app itself.
What features and services do developers need in a mobile backend?
These days, users demand quality and exceptional experiences. They expect interactivity with the device and other people. To meet those expectations, developers need user registration and management, custom data storage, optimized access to that data, role management, event tracking, geolocation, analytics, social integration, and more.
BaaS providers have built their platforms to solve these problems for mobile app developers.
The heat is on
Over a dozen companies have launched an offering in this sector within the last six months and analysts are projecting that BaaS will become as ubiquitous as web hosting. Web hosting, and now cloud computing, have been industry standard solutions for some time. Sure, companies can still choose to run on-premise web servers - but few do. Why? Because services like Amazon's EC2 offer full-featured solutions at very reasonable prices! The same thing is true for BaaS. As the services mature and evolve, it simply won't make business sense for companies or developers to build it themselves.
A leg up on your competition
The good news is that while adoption rates of BaaS are ramping up quickly, the industry is nowhere near full saturation. Many developers and companies don't yet realize that their projects could benefit significantly and are still building server side stacks in-house. This means that developers who opt to take advantage of BaaS today are positioning themselves for a significant head start on the competition. They will be able to build great apps in half the time and at a fraction of the cost.
How are you powering your app? We’d love to hear from you over on the Usergrid google group.