The recent announcement that Facebook has acquired Parse has caused a bit of a stir around the developer community, as so often seems to be the case when a large company (Facebook especially) acquires a start up.
Although Facebook has emphasised that it is an acquisition and not a hunt for new talent, it seems many mobile developers are still skeptical about what will happen to the Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS) provider.
Parse offers mobile developers a quick, easy and cost-effective way of adding different types of server-side functionality to mobile apps. Instead of having to individually write complex backend services like push notifications or social login systems for each and every app, Parse packages these services so that developers can easily integrate them into their mobile apps using Parse’s own SDKs.
One of the most useful features of Parse, for us as enterprise developers, is the ability to create and store data objects in the cloud and to be able to easily interact with this data via Parse’s simple APIs. Now that MBaaS providers like Parse can develop these server-side APIs, developers are now able to focus more on creating a great mobile user experience for users.
We’ve been keeping a close eye on Parse (and other similar providers including Kinvey and Stackmob) for a couple of years now and have only found a couple of instances where this approach has been the best option for our clients.
This is mainly due to the fact that the majority of our clients are large corporates who have very strict IT security policies. In addition to this, many UK organisations don’t want their data to be stored overseas because of data protection implications. When dealing with our corporate clients, relying on third party services can be risky. Facebook’s acquisition of Parse has confirmed this for us!
Now that Parse is owned by Facebook, it’s difficult to know where the platform will be heading in terms of change. Will they continue to offer a free service? Will they keep all of their client data separate from Facebook? Parse and Facebook both say that current products will continue to be supported but aspects of Parse are likely to change if other Facebook acquisitions are anything to go by.
A lot of developers tend not to trust Facebook and it will be interesting to see whether some of the larger brands using Parse will move away from the platform now that it is owned by Facebook.
Because start up companies like Parse, Kinvey and Stackmob are still relatively new in this space, and we don’t know what they have planned for the future, we cannot rely on them for our corporate clients just yet. That’s not to say these services aren’t useful for some of our smaller clients whose budgets aren’t as large, or even just for one off apps that aren’t mission-critical.
At the moment, according to Forrester, the majority of customers using BaaS are startups whose entire business is based around their app, and only 5% of BaaS customers are enterprises. This just goes to show that MbaaS vendors will need to continue to work on their security and reliability before they are adopted by a much wider audience.