Progress Software announced yesterday that it is acquiring Kinvey for $49 million. For enterprise IT leaders, the acquisition’s significance has little to do with either vendor, but rather the fate of the mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) category Kinvey helped create. In fact, one could argue that Progress’ acquisition of Kinvey represents the final nail in the coffin for mBaaS as a standalone category.
The reason why standalone mBaaS products will cease to exist is that most Mobile Application Development Platforms (MADPs) have either reached parity with, or exceeded, the capabilities of these tools. According to a recent Gartner report, “A MADP offers a MBS [mobile back-end services] product as part of its platform, but a MBS is not a MADP because it lacks any front-end app development tool, which MADPs have as a defining capability. MADPs also will offer some form of connectors or adaptors to on-premises systems and cloud-based applications, while MBS tend to have less support, particularly for on-premises data sources.”1
A MADP offers a MBS product as part of its platform, but a MBS is not a MADP because it lacks any front-end app development tool.” – Gartner
The report goes on to suggest that MADP is more than adequate for most use cases. Only for certain niche industry requirements, such as gaming or healthcare, would an organization need both a MADP and MBS for functional completeness.
Stepping back, enterprise IT leaders who recognize the importance of backend services to application development should consider general-purpose platforms with a decoupled architecture supporting clear separation between the logic, integration, and user interface layers. This architectural approach offers numerous benefits, including:
- Support for a broad array of (backend) services. In addition to core mobile services (e.g. push notifications, location services, offline synchronization), development teams should be able to access a multitude of generic app services (e.g. SAML, LDAP, OAuth), and connectors to third-party systems (e.g. SAP, Salesforce, Box), as well as IoT, machine learning, and cognitive services through an app store or marketplace.
- Support for mobile, web, and a growing number of endpoints. Developers should be able to leverage these services not just for mobile apps, but holistically across a variety of web, mobile, and multi-channel apps, including chatbots and smart agents. For organizations looking to future-proof their platform investments, openness is a key consideration in enabling the flexibility to support emerging devices and end points.
Combining this architectural approach with high-productivity declarative tooling for mobile app development enables a continuum of developers to easily bind various (backend) services to whatever UIs and end points are necessary for a specific user group or context. Because they don’t have to write any code, developers can focus on combining logic in various ways to iterate toward the best possible user experience.
For standalone mBaaS, it seems the writing had been on the wall. In retrospect, Kinvey’s move to drop the “m” and position itself as Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) reflected the reality that backend services apply generally to all styles of app development, not just mobile. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough to stave off the category’s absorption into the broader app development platforms market.
Regardless of the depth of integration requirements, enterprise looking to build a variety mobile and web apps should consider a general-purpose platform combining high-productivity declarative tooling, backend services capabilities, and a cloud-native architecture. You’ll not only reduce development cost and complexity, but enable the delivery of a portfolio of apps at speed and scale.
1 Gartner, Inc., “Mix MADP, RMAD and MBS for a Resilient Mobile Platform Strategy,” June 13, 2017, Jason Wong, Van L. Baker, Adrian Leow, and Marty Resnick