Developing an application as a software engineer can be challenging, especially when managing the server. Whether working on a web or mobile app, you must ensure the data is secure, users are authenticated and authorized, and the database technology suits the task. Additionally, you must structure the database schema to allow for efficient data storage and retrieval and ensure the app can handle high traffic without sacrificing performance. These are just a few of the many challenges developers wrestle with when building a product.
In an environment where 80% of development efforts go toward the backend, Backend as a Service (BaaS) can help manage these tasks. BaaS is a cloud-based platform that provides developers with tools to help them manage server-side operations. It allows developers to focus on building the frontend of their apps without having to wrangle with the backend infrastructures.
This article provides a comprehensive overview of BaaS, including its functionality, popular providers, advantages and drawbacks, business implications, and typologies. You will gain a deep understanding of BaaS and be able to speed up application development, make informed decisions about providers, understand BaaS implementation nuances, and solve problems effectively.
A BaaS is a pre-built backend infrastructure with all the essential features and functionality you need to deploy your project. BaaS offloads the backend tasks saving you the time of building yours from scratch.
The growing demand for mobile applications and the increasing complexity of backend infrastructure are driving the growth of the BaaS market. According to Future Market Research, the BaaS market is expected to surge to $22 billion by 2032, up from its current valuation of $2.4 billion. It has also been predicted that approximately 50% of all mobile applications will depend on BaaS in 2023.
BaaS provides several advantages for software developers and businesses, such as accelerated development, maintaining and managing the backend infrastructure, features, and functionalities right of the box, including user management, push notifications, database optimization, and more. All this helps skip the time-consuming process of building a backend platform from scratch, allowing you to quickly integrate complex functionalities into your applications without investing excessive time in development.
Backend-as-a-Service providers offer a comprehensive suite of tools, services, and infrastructures to streamline the backend development process for software applications.
BaaS providers cater to various applications, including mobile apps, web applications, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. They alleviate the burden of backend development by abstracting the complexities of server setup, database management, and security implementation. This ultimately accelerates the development lifecycle, reduces the learning curve for new technologies, and lowers the barrier of entry for aspiring developers.
Some BaaS providers are:
Google Firebase: Owned by Google, Firebase is a popular BaaS platform that offers real-time database, authentication, and cloud storage, amongst other services. It is easy to use and seamlessly integrates with other Google services. It is also a good choice for developers who want to build real-time applications.
AWS Amplify: This is a part of Amazon Web Services (AWS); AWS Amplify includes features like authentication, data storage, APIs, and serverless functions. They offer features-based pricing for two features – build and deploy and web hosting. It is a good choice for developers who want to build scalable and secure applications.
Appwrite: Appwrite is an open-source BaaS platform. It offers common features like authentication, database, cloud storage, and execution of server-side code with functions. It can easily be integrated with Web, Flutter, Android, or iOS apps. It is a good choice for developers who want a flexible and affordable open-source BaaS platform.
Supabase: Supabase is another open-source BaaS platform built on top of PostgreSQL. It provides real-time database, authentication, and file storage functionalities. It is a good choice for developers who want a flexible and powerful BaaS platform.
Choosing the right BaaS can be tricky; it is important to consider your specific needs and requirements. Some factors to consider are; the features offered, the pricing, the level of support, and the security features. Here are a few tips for choosing which would work best for your project:
Assess business objectives and requirements: You must understand your project's specific needs and objectives. What is your business trying to achieve? Different BaaS providers may cater better to certain types of projects. For instance, building a social media app requires a robust user management system, storage, real-time capabilities, and many others, so you want to choose a BaaS that offers these functionalities and is scalable and reliable.
Compatibility with types of projects: Check that the BaaS provider supports the technologies and frameworks you plan to use for your application. Like the social media app mentioned in the last point, you should target mobile devices and make sure the BaaS provider supports mobile application development and if they have SDKs and APIs for the mobile platforms you plan to target, such as iOS and Android. Appwrite, Firebase, and AWS are some of the BaaS providers that support most major languages and frameworks that developers and leading businesses use.
Evaluate essential features and functionality: Another essential thing to look out for is cost. Depending on BaaS's functionalities, pricing differs for various BaaS providers. Appwrite and Supabase are open-source and offer a wide range of backend functionalities.
Analyze backend providers' reputation and support: Reputation and customer support are critical when choosing a BaaS provider. You should check for reviews and testimonials from other developers and businesses using their services.
Here are the key benefits of using a BaaS:
Significant reduction of time to market: BaaS cuts the development process, enabling the development team to build and deploy the application faster; with this, your product gets launched faster.
Minimized development cost: In BaaS, since the backend infrastructure is outsourced, the cost of operation is minimized significantly.
Wide range of functionalities: A BaaS offers various key features, helping developers build feature-rich applications efficiently.
While BaaS offers a lot of advantages, it also comes with some limitations:
Less control: You have less control over the codebase and infrastructure of a BaaS solution. This makes it difficult to perform some tasks, like implementing specialized or unique security measures and handling data in unique ways, amongst other things. However, open-source BaaS solutions like Appwrite and Supabase give you more control. You have access to their underlying source code, allowing you to modify and extend the codebase.
Vendor lock-in: Some BaaS providers don't have a way for you to migrate your data, settings, and configurations from their platform to another. For Instance, Firebase offers various export options to help you migrate your data. In August, Appwrite intends to provide migration APIs to simplify transitioning to or from their platform.
No custom automatic operations: Some BaaS providers may not support certain custom automatic operations. However, Appwrite has serverless functions that you can use to perform custom automated operations.
There are different types of BaaS offerings available:
- Cloud-based BaaS is the most common type, where the BaaS provider hosts and manages the backend infrastructure on their cloud servers. Some examples are Firebase, AWS Amplify, and Microsoft Azure Mobile Apps.
- Self-hosted BaaS: Businesses can host their own BaaS infrastructure on their servers for more control and privacy. Some examples are Parse Server GitHub, Strapi, and Hasura.
- Mobile BaaS: Mobile backend as a service is specifically designed for mobile solutions; these mobile backend as a service solutions offer features tailored to mobile development. Some examples are DreamFactory, Backendless, and Kinvey.
BaaS differs from other cloud service models:
FaaS (Function as a Service): A BaaS focuses on providing a complete backend infrastructure, while a FaaS executes a function in response to an event. Some examples of FaaS are AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, Google Cloud Functions, and IBM Cloud Functions.
SaaS (Software as a Service): A BaaS is targeted at developers, offering backend services, while a SaaS targets end users, providing ready-to-use software applications. Some examples of SaaS are Salesforce, Microsoft 365, and Google Workspace.
PaaS (Platform as a Service): A BaaS is a subset solely focusing on backend infrastructure and services, while PaaS provides a comprehensive platform for application development. Some examples of PaaS are Heroku, Google App Engine, and Azure App Service.
IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service): A BaaS abstracts the backend infrastructure entirely; an IaaS cloud vendor hosts infrastructure on behalf of their customers, providing raw computing resources. Some examples of IaaS are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and IBM Cloud.
This article explains the pivotal role of BaaS in simplifying application development and shaping the creation of software products. BaaS empowers developers by offering a pre-constructed backend framework, enabling them to focus on frontend excellence without grappling with the backend complexities. It facilitates accelerated development and is proven to be a vital asset in an industry where backend configurations account for a substantial portion of efforts.
Selecting the right BaaS involves assessing project objectives, ensuring compatibility, evaluating essential features, and gauging the reputation and support of the provider. BaaS not only offers numerous benefits, such as reduced development time and cost efficiency, but it also provides the capability to integrate third-party services seamlessly.
However, it's vital to recognize its limitations, including less control and potential vendor lock-in, when considering the adoption of BaaS.
BaaS emerges as a transformative solution, empowering frontend and backend developers to expedite application development and realize their creative visions. As the demand for efficient app development surges, BaaS's trajectory remains upward, signifying its relevance in fostering rapid, robust, and user-centric software solutions.
What is BaaS?: Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) is a cloud computing model that equips developers with a scalable backend, including pre-built infrastructure and essential functionalities. This empowers developers to concentrate on crafting frontend applications while leaving backend tasks such as managing data, business logic, and server maintenance to the BaaS provider.
Why does your business need Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS)?: As a comprehensive software development kit, BaaS offers a major advantage by significantly reducing development time and costs. It's the optimal solution for swift product development, providing essential features that accelerate application creation. This approach ensures a faster route to viable products, freeing up resources for other critical project areas.
How do I integrate BaaS into my application?: Integrating a BaaS into your application involves signing up with a BaaS provider, obtaining API keys, and using their SDKs or APIs to interact with the backend services.
Who uses BaaS, and what drives the demand?: Kraken, Apple, Monzo, Revolut, American Express, Samsung, and Uber have successfully integrated BaaS solutions into their businesses. The demand for BaaS is driven by the need for rapid application development, cost-effectiveness, and access to advanced backend features without extensive backend infrastructure management. The annual growth rate is about 23.9%, which is astonishing.
When to use BaaS for your project?: Consider using a BaaS to accelerate development, reduce additional costs when developing your application, and access a wide range of backend functionalities without the burden of managing the infrastructure. A BaaS is particularly beneficial for projects that require user authentication, real-time data updates, customization options, cloud storage, and other standard backend features. BaaS is making great strides in capturing the market, with about 50% of all mobile apps expected to rely on BaaS by 2023.
How much does Backend as a service cost?: The cost of BaaS depends on the provider and the resources utilized. To find a cost-effective solution, it's important to note that some BaaS providers charge for resources such as the number of API calls, storage usage, and other additional features. BaaS providers typically offer pricing plans based on use, ensuring that developers are charged based on the resources they consume while aiming for a budget-friendly approach.
What are the features of BaaS?: BaaS offers many features, including user authentication, real-time databases, cloud storage, file management, push notifications, and more.
How does BaaS work?: BaaS providers specializing in cloud backend solutions host and maintain the backend infrastructure and services on their servers. This approach relieves developers from the complexities of managing the app backend themselves. Software developers, whether creating mobile apps or web applications, interact with these hosted services through APIs or SDKs offered by the BaaS provider. This streamlined integration empowers developers to access a range of backend functionalities, making it particularly convenient for those seeking efficient app backend or custom backend solutions.
What is the difference between Backend-as-a-Service and Function-as-a-Service?: Backend-as-a-service (BaaS) provides a backend infrastructure with pre-built functionalities, while Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) focuses on executing discrete functions in response to events.
Should I choose BaaS or custom backend?: Choosing between BaaS and a custom backend depends on your project's specific needs and resources. A BaaS is suitable for rapid development, cost-effectiveness, and access to pre-built functionalities. Custom backend development offers flexibility and complete control over your application code but requires more time, resources, and expertise to build and maintain. Consider your project requirements, timeline, and budget to make an informed decision.