|By Srinivasan Sundara Rajan||
|November 21, 2014 09:25 AM EST||
MBaaS: As the enterprise mobility grows, there is a stronger need for supporting the mobile clients with value added services which connect to the back end legacy systems and ensure that the enterprise mobile applications perform the required tasks.
Mobile Backend as a service, also known as " backend as a service", is a model for providing mobile app developers with a way to link their applications to backend cloud storage and APIs exposed by back end applications.
There are several advantages to embrace MBaaS when enterprises think of a strategy to mobilize their enterprise applications.
- Mobile Backend-as-a-Service facilitates integration on ERP applications with mobile applications for effective operations. For e.g.: Accounts Receivables (payment integration) enabling true enterprise class mobile applications
- Mobile Backend-as-a-Service enables additional layers of security. For e.g.: integration with two factor authentication servers
- Mobile Backend-as-a-Service compliments mobile enterprise application platform for non business critical applications yet providing "Write Once Run Anywhere" capability
- Intellectual property rights fully protected as no business logic is exposed to mobile clients that are vulnerable for hacking
MBaaS Players: The importance of MBaaS is clearly highlighted by the fact that the major cloud providers Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS have services in support of it.
Microsoft Azure Mobile Services is a Azure service offering designed to make it easy to create highly-functional mobile apps using Azure. Mobile Services brings together a set of Azure services that enable backend capabilities for your apps. Mobile Services provides several backend capabilities in Azure to support your apps.
Amazon AWS provides a range of services that are designed specifically to help mobile app developers quickly and easily build apps that can scale from tens to hundreds of millions of users, and reach global scale with minimum effort. Individually they are further broken into multiple relevant services namely, identity management & sync (Amazon Cognito), analytics (Amazon Mobile Analytics), and push notifications (Amazon SNS Mobile Push).
The following table covers some of the equivalent features between Azure and Amazon and also touch upon where there are differences and value additions, as these services are quite new they will evolve more in the future.
Azure mobile services provide rich set of options to integrate with backend data. One particularly interesting scenario is using an existing SQL database (either on-premises or in the cloud), that may already be used by other applications, to make existing data available to mobile clients. It can also use non relational database like MongoDB as data source.
Azure mobile services also supports calling custom APIs. A custom API enables you to define custom endpoints that expose server functionality that does not map to an insert, update, delete, or read operation.
The Amazon DynamoDB Object Mapper simplifies access to DynamoDB and enables secure access to private or shared data directly from your mobile app.
The Amazon S3 Transfer Manager in the AWS Mobile SDK simplifies uploading and downloading files from devices over mobile connections to make accessing files stored in the cloud fast and easy. The Amazon S3 Transfer Manager provides multi-part uploads/downloads, pause, resume and cancel.
While there is a mention about support for Amazon Relational Database Services (RDS) there are no explicit features mentioned on this front.
Azure mobile services facilitate offline sync feature, which allows developers to write apps that are usable even when the end user has no network access.
The offline sync features in the SDK let you handle such conflicts via code and let you dynamically decide what to do with conflicting items.
Amazon Cognito is a service that makes it easy to save user data, such as app preferences or game state, in the AWS Cloud without writing any backend code or managing any infrastructure.
You can save data locally on users' devices allowing your applications to work even when the devices are offline. You can also synchronize data across a user's devices so that their app experience will be consistent regardless of the device they use.
Windows Azure Mobile Services (WAMS) supports authentication from
different providers like : Facebook, Google, Microsoft Account (formerly Microsoft Live ID), and Twitter. Apart from this, Azure Active Directory is also an authentication provider for Azure Mobile Services.
With Amazon Cognito, you can create unique end user identifiers for accessing AWS cloud services by using public login providers such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and any OpenID Connect compatible provider, or by using your own user identity system. With these identifiers you can store app data in the Amazon Cognito sync store or access other AWS services like Amazon S3 or Amazon DynamoDB.
Azure Mobile Services also support sending Push Notifications back to the mobile devices. Your mobile service needs to talk to either the
Windows, Google or Apple notification services. Your client application needs to register a
channel with the mobile service.
Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) is a fast, flexible, fully managed push messaging service. Amazon SNS makes it simple and cost-effective to push notifications to Apple, Google, Fire OS, and Windows devices.
Microsoft has acquired a Mobile analytics solution Capptain, With Capptain, the app owners and marketers can engage with app users in real-time by analyzing their behavior, finely segmenting the audience based on how they interact with the app, and engage via personalized push notifications or rich in-app messaging. Combining analytics and push, Capptain reacts to user behavior in milliseconds to deliver the right message at the right time, resulting in your users feeling well cared-for.
Amazon Mobile Analytics is a service that lets you easily collect, visualize, and understand app usage data at scale. Many mobile app analytics solutions deliver usage data several hours after the events occur. Amazon Mobile Analytics is designed to deliver usage reports within 60 minutes of receiving data from an app so that you can act on the data more quickly.
Differentiators : Considering the importance of MBaaS in the emerging mobility reference architecture, it is likely that both these services will have a good chance in getting into the enterprise landscape. The other factors like performance, cost of ownership will also play role in the adoption. However there are some differentiators in each of them from the features perspective.
Microsoft Azure Mobile Services, scores well in :
- On Premise Integration : As a true hybrid cloud enabler, Azure mobile services provides lot of options for on premise integration. Mobile Services enables you to easily create a cloud-hosted mobility layer on top of these assets, while safely connecting to them back on your premises using Hybrid Connections. Supported assets include any resource that runs on a static TCP port, including Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, HTTP Web APIs, and most custom web services.
- Relational Database Integration : While NOSQL based databases may find a role in Enterprise mobile applications, it is unlikely that the relational databases will go out of picture and hence support for relational databases is key to the success of enterprise mobility applications. The Mobile Services .NET backend makes it easy to take advantage of existing assets in building a mobile service. One particularly interesting scenario is using an existing SQL database (either on-premises or in the cloud), that may already be used by other applications, to make existing data available to mobile clients.
Amazon AWS Mobile Services, scores well in :
- Real Time Processing : You can have your mobile applications push data to Amazon Kinesis from hundreds of thousands of devices, making the data available to you as soon as it is produced on the mobile devices. The Amazon Kinesis Recorder enables you to reliably record data to an Amazon Kinesis stream from your mobile application. The Amazon Kinesis Recorder batches requests to handle intermittent network connections and enables you to record events even when the device is offline. Azure documentation has some mention about integration with SignalR however this has to be evolved further.
Summary: Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS) is one of the fastest growing cloud services delivery model. While there are some pure play vendors already in the race, considering the diversity of technologies in most enterprises , MBaaS may well be served better when working along side a cloud based PaaS service so that a combination of MBaaS eco system can be provided. In that context both Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS provides options for enterprises.
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