From Months to Minutes - Mobile Ready Backends

98% of my time is spent developing iOS apps and most of them talk so some sort of web-service. Most of the web frameworks that exist today written in PHP, Python and Ruby abstract a lot of “boiler-plate” code the is tedious and error prone. They saves us valuable time and headache. However, many mobile developers still had to setup a server, database, security and create the endpoints for their app to communicate with.

This is not fun to say the least.

Below is a short, but excellent list of available mobile back-end solutions that allow users to setup, in most cases 5 minutes, a mobile back-end with out-of-the-box solutions for model relationships, PUSH notifications, user management, ACL and geo-location.   I have used all of them at some point or the other and have saved me HOURS and HOURS of setup, server side coding and maintenance.  In addition, any questions, comments or bugs that I sent to their support were answered promptly and with an adequate fix or recommendation.

Unless there is a pressing need for you to roll your own back-end solution I highly recommending using any of these services.

Parse is the new kid on the block and though it doesn’t have as many features compared to StackMob, what it does excel in its simplicity, outstanding support and turn key solutions for common tasks such as table lists views.  There are still some features that needed to be added, such as cache invalidation, model archiving and better console management, but I have spoken to their support staff and the was told that these will be added in soon.

If you have a straightfoward model structure and need a backend setup ASAP then Parse is by far the best solution.  Though they have some growing to do, but they are well are there way and their service has been a pleasure to use.

  1. User managment
  2. Relational Queries
  3. iOS/Android SDK’s
  4. Facebook Integration Wrapper
  5. Push Notifications
  6. GeoLocation Services
I wish that StackMob had been around a few years for some of the larger projects that I worked on because it would have been the back-end solution I would have used...hands down.  Besides all that standard features that most back-end service platforms offer they also provide tremendous additions such as API versioning, phone support, API extensions and dev/production environments for your API just to name a few.

StackMob’s solutions are where you need to me be for larger API needs.  The setup is easy and the service is feature rich.

  1. API Extensions
  2. API Versioning
  3. Push Notifications
  4. Social Networking Integration
  5. Analytics
  6. S3 Support

No matter if your backend requirements are larger or small there is no need for most cases anymore to roll your own.  Services such as Parse and StackMob have really positioned themselves as the frontrunners in the PaaS and SaaS solution providers.  The advantage that they have is that they came in and built their companies from the ground up tailored for mobile, but flexible enough to server any data client.
4 responses
What happens if Parse or Stackmob decides to shut down their servers ? Is it easy to transition away from them ?
It is always important to have these types of discussions when using a third party for production infrastructure. This happened recently when urbanairship shut down simplegeo. 
Getting your data out of stackmob or parse is very easy.

Sent from my iPad
I Have built a site that compares lists over 15 mobile backend companies , provides information for each one , and provides a place for you to write ratings and reviews on the backend service . Check it out at ! :)
Hey Cory thanks for the blog, very interesting. We've been running Kumulos ( BaaS now since 2009 and understand the importance of trust and credibility in selecting the right provider. We've designed our backend as a service platform to make it super easy, quick and hassle free for app developers to extract their data from the system, should they need to do so at very short notice.

It's not just the threat of shutting down the servers that scares developers, but also the thought that they could manage their data in a better and more efficient way using another platform. It may be that competing platforms offer better value in terms of price or affordability. It could also be that competing platforms offer richer and more comprehensive features.

Our system is designed to be extremely affordable and there is no minimum contract tie-in when you hook your data into Kumulos. We deal with lots of customers who want to use Kumulos but have difficulty moving their data away from an incumbent supplier. That's why we want to make it easy for developers to opt in (and opt out should they wish) in order to stimulate increased trust and credibility in our users.

Thanks again, really interesting piece :)