Mobile Backend as a Service is the New Mobile Enterprise App Play

Over the last couple of months, nearly $100 million dollars were put on the enterprise mobile app table, reflecting sharp bets that the new mobile application platform game in town is Mobile Backend as a Service.

The first of these bets was placed by Red Hat when it successfully acquired FeedHenry for a substantial $82 million. For a company sporting a single previous investment round of $9 million that amounts to solid FeedHenry ROI for all concerned.

Nearly concurrent to the Red Hat-FeedHenry acquisition, the second bet came in the way of a Series B funding round for Kinvey, which I believe is a close second to FeedHenry in terms of MBaaS strengths and capabilities. The Series B is worth $10.8 million - coupled with an earlier Series A round of $7 million, investors have now placed a $17.8 million bet on Kinvey, and that looks like a fine bet to have made. I expect big things from Kinvey, and no doubt there is yet another major MBaaS acquisition to be made here at some point.

Enterprise Mobility has been around for over 10 years now, though it wasn't relevant on a large scale until the current decade arrived and brought with it the iPhone and the iPad, and of course BYOD.

Mobile development platforms (the familiar acronyms of MADP and MEAP) have traditionally been built around client-server architectures, and have ruled the enterprise roost for many years. Some of these platforms were better for building monolithic single-purpose mobile apps, some lent themselves to mobile web development, and the majority of them have required dedicated application development and management resources.

MADPs have certainly served useful enterprise purposes over the years, and there would be no enterprise mobility today without them. But technology constantly evolves, and to make what is a very long story short, even the most state of the art of these legacy platforms can't keep up with today's enterprise shift to cloud-based computing.

Their client-server roots now work against them, and to evolve their core platforms into modern day enterprise architectures is not a viable option. Embracing HTML5, web apps, and native-hybrid app development is as far as they've come... but it isn't enough.

Today's modern day architectures - SaaS, PaaS, BaaS and now MBaaS - are the realities of today's enterprise world. Collectively, cloud computing and these services drive the ability for enterprises to become far more interactive and dynamic. Mobility, driven by both consumer and workforce demand, now requires enterprises to literally 'live in the moment'. Client-server mobile app platform architectures simply don't lend themselves to tackling today's definition of dynamic interactions.

Ironically, old mobile apps used to define dynamic enterprise applications - they were of course built to interact with users (whether workforce or external consumers) under anytime, anywhere conditions. But in truth these apps have ultimately tended to be static entities - once built, more often than not at significant development cost, they become single-purpose apps.

Today's definition of dynamic mobile apps has changed radically. Those enterprises that can lay claim to being today's mobile pioneers are those that are not only extending mobility out to the workforce, partners, customers and consumers, but are also living in the moment in with their dynamic applications.

The Mobile Backend as a Service vendors all have a specific common view of how enterprises must now build their mobile apps to gain competitive advantages.

  • Primary stakeholders: Line of business (LOB), IT and finance need to always be able to come together and quickly develop apps that meet revenue-generating and/or business intelligence gathering requirements
  • Other key stakeholders: (For example the CMO's office), need to be easily integrated into planning and development processes
  • IT must have at its disposal significant flexibility to quickly bring together, in the cloud, both front end/user interface capabilities, and easy backend connectivity to numerous potential resources
  • Both mobile app planning and development must be collaborative and agile in nature. This requires embracing a myriad of development frameworks that are likely to already exist within a business and that developers are already familiar with
  • The key MBaaS competitive advantage is that all of the underlying complexity is handled by the MBaaS platform, leaving enterprises free to focus specifically on business issues, user interfaces and - most critical of all - in the moment development of apps that can be quickly deployed
  • Many mobile apps should now be 'disposable' - that is, they can be built quickly and at very low cost to serve specific needs that are likely to be short-lived in nature

Mobile Backend as a Service seems to be emerging as the necessary new enterprise mobile app game, and those that don't embrace it will find themselves at competitive disadvantages.

However, it is worth noting that all of the old caveats for mobile app development still apply. Even in an emerging world of disposable and in the moment mobile app development, mobile strategy remains, as I am extremely fond of claiming, "A long-term strategy and never a short-term fix."

In truth, the more things change the more they remain the same. I've also long been extremely fond of noting that the three key business components of any enterprise mobile app project are rapid development, speed to market and VERY reasonable cost.

I'm thrilled the MBaaS vendors are embracing these concepts. I'm even more thrilled that through MBaaS vendors, enterprises will in fact be able to deliver on them as well! MBaaS is the smart enterprise bet to make.

This article was written by Tony Rizzo, Entrepreneur in Residence, Mobile, IoT & Wearable Enterprise Research for Blue Hill Research towards his current MBaaS-based enterprise mobile app Analyst Insight and Anatomy of Decision reports.