Mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) is the fastest-growing cloud services delivery model. When I was researching my report “What developers should know when choosing an MBaaS solution” (GigaOM Research subscription required), I found more than a dozen Silicon Valley startups that are building an MBaaS offering. Unlike IaaS and PaaS, MBaaS has the potential to be consumed by the masses. That’s simply because of the fact that MBaaS empowers mobile developers to assemble an application instead of building it from scratch. The APIs make it extremely simple to add complex functionality to those beautiful-looking iOS and Android applications.
With so much potential, will Amazon let go of the opportunity to build an MBaaS layer? Here’s why I think it’s going to get in the game.
First, AWS has all the required building blocks to expose mobile backend services. Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon RDS already form the backbone of many mobile applications today. The AWS SDK for Android and iOS makes it easy for developers to consume these services. But typical MBaaS offerings go beyond the REST APIs of dealing with disparate services and provide scenario-based APIs. For example, calling the “create user” API will add an entry to a database running in Amazon RDS, upload the profile picture to Amazon S3, and write the user preferences to Amazon DynamoDB. Nothing stops Amazon from building a thin layer that consolidates existing APIs and exposing a unified API that connects the underlying building blocks. The existing AWS mobile SDKs will be augmented to support this.
Amazon has the unique advantage of carefully watching and learning from the customers’ workloads that run in its backyard. It is at a vantage point that gives it the visibility into various business models and usage patterns of its customers and partners. For example, before coming out with AWS Beanstalk, it had Heroku and Engine Yard validating the idea of building and running a PaaS on Amazon’s infrastructure. Currently some of the mature MBaaS platforms like Appcelerator, Parse, StackMob, and Kinvey are running on top of AWS. These companies are powering tens of thousands of mobile applications that indirectly consume Amazon cloud services.
Amazon was criticized for launching AWS OpsWorks, which imitates the functionality of RightScale, Scalr, and other cloud management service providers. Going by AWS’ track record, it is only a matter of time before it announces mobile backend services.
Another indication comes from AWS’ biggest competitor, Microsoft. AWS and Windows Azure are battling it out for market share. Within weeks of Microsoft announcing Windows Azure Media Services, AWS came out with Elastic Transcoder. A few months ago Windows Azure went live with Windows Azure Mobile Services, which offers backend services for iOS, Android, WP8, and Windows 8. Going by this, it is expected that Amazon will enter the crowded market of MBaaS.