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The No-Bullshit Take on MBaaS and our Offer to the Parse Community


We first introduced Built.io Backend as “the no bullshit backend for enterprise”, and I still stand by that motto. But what do I mean when I say “no bullshit”? For me, it’s encouraging companies to look past the marketing, past the Powerpoint slides and the slick website. What good are shiny new features if they don’t work as expected? I take the “no BS” approach very personal and enforce it across our entire team: we have always and will always be straightforward with our customers and partners.

What this means from a product perspective, is that we only build features if they make sense for users of the product – mobile app developers, in the case of Built.io Backend. For features that shouldn’t be part of MBaaS, I always advocate for solutions that integrate with industry leaders. Marketing might call this best-of-breed but for me, at an architectural level, it’s paramount not to turn any of our products into bloatware.

Is MBaaS Dead?

I’ve seen a lot of people question whether there’s a future for MBaaS after Parse’s announcement last week. As a technologist having been directly involved building hundreds of mobile applications, the benefits of MBaaS are unquestionable to me: it’s faster and easier to build your application and you don’t waste time reinventing the wheel. Think about it: You have an amazing app idea and start pitching it to VCs. When they ask you what you’re going to use the money for, you probably wouldn’t want to respond with: “Oh, 70% is going towards building out a backend from scratch.” Unfortunately, by making MBaaS at least temporarily “free”, Parse planted the misconception that there is no dollar value or cost associated with the service. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

John Ruskin provided some valuable insight on this years before any of us thought about SaaS or cloud computing: “It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money - that's all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

While the majority of applications on Parse were running at no cost to developers, there were significant costs to Facebook to support the infrastructure. Given that Facebook was attracting a sizable developer community with the freemium model, perhaps they believed they could justify the investment by employing the 95:5 rule for it’s Parse business. As we’ve seen with countless companies, the freemium model isn’t typically viable. For MBaaS, paying customers are likely enterprise companies who consider security, reliability, and control to be critical. Letting Facebook manage your customer data becomes a non starter for most enterprises. This leaves revenue off the table for Parse.

As CTO, it’s important that I maintain control of our technology and minimize risks. Built.io depends on the cloud for a wide variety of software and services services such as Gmail, Zoho, Amazon Web Services, GitHub, Pingdom, etc. However, we control as much of the core technology in our products as possible to minimize our dependencies and risks.

If I were building out my mobile strategy from the ground up today, I’d set up my own MBaaS installation in my own VPC on AWS or Microsoft Azure. Yeah, I’d be paying hosting fees, but I’d know what it takes to run and maintain my apps over time. This might sound like an endorsement for Parse’s open sourced solution or other open source MBaaS solutions, but I don’t think that approach is viable in the long-run. Open source platforms are typically successful when they are supported, maintained, and controlled by a for-profit company (i.e. Red Hat, Docker, Elastic). Without anyone owning a project for the long-term, it is likely to fall into disarray over time.

To give companies this flexibility, we offer a dedicated instance of Built.io Backend. Install Built.io Backend into your own environment so you manage and control the future of your apps. If you need any help, we can help you setup your installation and have a world-class DevOps team that’s managed environments for large enterprises such as VMware and EMC. Let’s chat if this is something you’d be interested in.

Since Parse’s announcement on Thursday, we’ve seen a 10x increase in inquires about Built.io Backend. Everyone focuses on the same question: “How much does Built.io Backend cost?”, but they really should be asking “Is Built.io Backend right for me?” Picking a new backend is not a decision you should make lightly. Make sure to research options properly and talk to the right people before beginning any migration. Think of it as a risk vs. reward exercise considering factors such as budget, time-to-market, number of apps, scalability and growth trajectory.

Who should be using Built.io Backend?

Built.io Backend is a great fit for:

  1. Enterprises or organizations running multiple apps.
  2. Agencies that deliver multiple apps for multiple clients.
  3. Apps that are likely to scale and grow to millions of users over time.
  4. Developers that want to get to market fast that have budget to support their backend infrastructure.

Built.io Backend however is not a good fit for:

  1. Single apps with no plan to scale or grow your user base significantly.
  2. Developers or companies who are looking for a free Parse replacement.

How we price Built.io Backend

We’ve priced Built.io Backend to be profitable. For a Silicon Valley company, that’s a pretty bold statement. We’ve been around for 9 years and are entirely customer funded. We’ve focused on growing from our own profitability and have not become dependent on investors who might demand unfeasible returns. We’re in it for the long-haul and plan to continue growing what has proven itself as a sustainable business.

Our company was founded by a team that understands enterprise needs and have built our products to address those needs. For enterprises, proper budgeting is important so knowing up front how much you’ll pay for an annual license is more important than paying for exactly what you need without the predictability. We’ve priced our products in that manner. After an initial scoping call, we provide a quote that’ll cover your needs for a year so you know exactly what you need to power your app.

There’s a lot of vendor buzz right now so be wary of heavily discounted promotions. Think about it, if Parse with its massive developer community and all of Facebook’s muscle behind it couldn’t make MBaaS financially interesting enough for them to keep the service, it just spells trouble to go with an offering that offers the same service at a bigger discount. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. So here’s our “no BS” offer for Parse customers:

Existing Parse customers can use Dedicated Built.io Backend or our managed platform starting at $1,499/month. This isn’t dirt cheap but it’s still only a fraction of the cost compared to building the technology and team to do this yourself. And it’s sustainable – no one wants you to have to shop for another backend next year. If you’re interested in learning more, contact us.

What’s next for Built.io Backend?

We are strong believers that a dedicated instance of a supported MBaaS solution is the way to go. This provides you with full control over the servers to scale them, manage your data, and provide the privacy controls you require. This also gives you the benefits of accelerating app development with a supported MBaaS without the dependency of an external SaaS service and the associated risks with the service being discontinued.

The future of Built.io Backend is a pluggable architecture (scroll to the last section of the article). The core of the backend becomes the database as a service with data models, ACLs, user management and app management, with SDKs. Everything else is pluggable. This architecture allows you to pick and choose exactly the features you want from any vendor – proprietary or open source – to perfectly suit your needs. We believe this will combine the power and simplicity of running an MBaaS with the flexibility enterprises need to run their business. Want to learn more? We’d love to talk to you.

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