MBaaS: Where are they now?

In building the software infrastructure as a startup, you generally have a few options:

1. Build custom Backends on top of an IaaS provider (AWS, Rackspace, or Azure)

2. Build your own Hardware and COLO at a Data Center,

3. Use one of the Pizza Delivery as a Service Providers; SaaS, PaaS, or MBaaS.

Which you choose is highly dependent on your needs:

1. Is your software infrastructure critical to your business?

2. How much downtime can you withstand?

3. How much control do you want over performance? Latency? Stability? Bugs?

4. How much cash do you have?  Can you afford to weigh multiple approaches that may span tens of thousands of dollars in development time decisions regarding #3?

I’m talking about this because I’m neck deep in these choices.

 My initial plan was to use AWS: I’m familiar with it, it’s run by a giant in the industry, and it’s unlikely that it’s going to go down any time soon.  The problem with choosing AWS is that for our needs, they only go as far as the Infrastructure: All of the Database, Backend, API, and networking infrastructure is left up to me (in this particular use case).  I’m familiar with that, so that that doesn’t bother me, but what does bother me is the time/cost tradeoff.  For the sake of argument, let’s assume a normal developer costs 12-15K per month (assuming NYC or DC; San Fran is probably a bit more).  If we also assume it’ll take a month of development time to build the backend, then we can safely say it’ll cost 12K for the backend  (This doesn’t take into account the cost of the IaaS; which is a few hundred a month, starting out — sometimes less).

The biggest problem with that 12K number isn’t the number itself — it’s non-trivial, to be sure, but the real cost is the opportunity cost.  The time spent building a backend is not spent building a product; it’s not spent making sure the product gets out the door to get traction/testing/money/all those things that Startups depend upon.

Another option for my specific use case is to use a MBaaS, (pronounced “Mmmm Bass”, but not nearly as delicious) or a “Mobile Backend as a Service” as they’re known.

The largest one out there is Parse.com, and they’re powered by Facebook.  They’re by far the most startup-oriented MBaaS provider I’ve seen, but they’re not the only one.  They also frighten me a little bit, especially with their reliability and bugs.

In researching this blog post, I took a look at all of the MBaaS providers mentioned in this Hacker News post, as well as their cost, focus, and whether or not they’re still alive as a MBaaS.

Provider Focus Cost/Month (startup) Status
Appcelerator Cloud MBaaS + App Platform SDK $39-$259 Alive
App42 Startup MBaaS + Managed Analytics $0-$99 Alive
Kumulos Startup MBaaS $10/month based on “fair usage” (not defined) Alive
Kinvey Enterprise MBaaS $2000/month (Free for Startups) Alive
Apstrata Indie MBaaS <$800/month for Startup ($.08 per user) Dead? (Last update to Google Code 2 years ago)
Buddy Enterprise MBaaS (unknown, they hide the service behind a “ContactWall”) Unknown (call for demo/pricing) Dead? (Last commit is November 2014 for their platform SDKs.
StackMob Indie MBaaS Unknown Dead (Acquired and shutdown by Paypal in February 2014)
Proxomo Unknown Unknown Dead – Site gives an Azure 403 code (seriously Azure? 403?) “Site is Stopped”
IKnode MBaaS $9/month Alive? – Last commit to their 4 months ago.
Kii Enterprise MBaaS? (Unclear from their site) ContactWall – Call for Pricing/Demo Alive
Cloud Mine Enterprise MBaaS ContactWall (Call for pricing/demo) Alive
Applicasa Game Developer MBaaS Pay Per user < 10K users = $249/month Dead.
MobDB BaaS Unknown Dead (Site 404s)
Windows Azure Mobile MBaaS Totally confusing Alive
Storage Room MBaaS Unknown Dead (Pivoted from BaaS and became/merged with “Contentful“).
Feed Henry Enterprise MBaaS Unknown (ContactWall) Alive (Acquired by Redhat in Late 2014)

So there you have it, out of 15 providers, 6 are dead (or appear dead), 9 are still around. It appears that most are either targeting Enterprise customers or Game developers.

There are only two conclusions I can draw from this:

1. If you choose to go the MBaaS route, you have a high probability of losing your provider.
2. Go Enterprise or Go Home.

**Update**: Kinvey’s CEO notes that Kinvey has a ‘Starter’ pricing, Essentially free for startups for development.