With AWS’s announcement of their mobile services today, I’d like to formally welcome Amazon to the Backend as a service (MBaaS) neighborhood.
In the last year, Microsoft (via Azure Mobile Services), Salesforce.com, and now Amazon have joined companies like Kinvey and Parse in the MBaaS space, which goes to show the size of the market we are pursuing. Every startup likes to play the “this validates our market” card when a large vendor moves into their space, but this move really does illustrate the speed at which the MBaaS market is growing. As I noted in Barb Darrow’s story in GigaOm, both Kinvey and Parse were built on AWS, and we’ve partnered with them on various fronts. Through AWS’s partnership conversations with us over the years, they have seen how MBaaS companies have built platforms on AWS and took notice of the customer adoption we have achieved over the last 3+ years. They’ve likely learned a lot from us. Now, they are attempting to take these learnings and capitalize on them to expand their business into a market that is clearly growing.
Mobile is driving cloud adoption
We are in the middle of 2 important platform shifts in the enterprise IT market: browser to mobile, and virtual infrastructure to cloud. Every large IT vendor is looking to capitalize on this dual shift.
The challenge AWS faces is that providing just compute, network and storage isn’t a defensible product set long-term. As a result, they’ve had to provide value-added services like SNS (for messaging, competing with the likes of Twilio and Urban Airship), and RedShift (Big Data, competing with various companies), and others. Their most conspicuous gap has always been in mobility offerings, but in March of last year AWS started hiring a team for mobile, and today’s announcement indicates that they are trying to bridge their mobile gap. Lack of a solid mobile services offering on AWS has been a sticking point for Amazon: mobile-first companies like Instagram have built their own mobile stack on AWS for their apps, making it easier to move out of AWS at the right time. As another example, Kinvey has also abstracted away from AWS, giving us the ability to run a customer’s backend as a service platform on any (non-AWS) private or public cloud vendor.
At the end of the day, if you don’t provide the right kinds of higher-value services on your infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platform, your customers can move their workloads away from your service, making it less sticky. AWS’s mobile services offering is an attempt to rectify that.
However, I can think of one more reason for AWS to launch a mobile services offering:
A cloud backend for apps on Fire
Google, Microsoft, Apple, and now Amazon are in a position that they sell a mobile (and tablet) device, have a developer ecosystem, and also provide a cloud service to host backends for apps that live on a user’s device. Amazon’s announcement conveniently comes just weeks after they launched their Fire phone – a serious driver for app development, and Amazon wants to ensure those app backends stay on AWS.
Additionally, Amazon (like Facebook) receives great insight into a mobile user when the user interacts with the Amazon app. They lose context, however, when users move to other apps on their device. By tying together a mobile device and cloud services, AWS will have a more holistic view of users — a very powerful combination. Amazon has always been on the forefront of using data and analytics to improve sales, so this move is no surprise.
All in all, this is an exciting announcement for the team here at Kinvey. When giants like Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon enter your space, you know you’re touching on a serious pain point. Furthermore, Amazon’s desire to lock mobility down to AWS really calls attention to the value of the flexibility that third party MBaaS providers bring by allowing users to choose whatever cloud foundation works best for their business or app, whether it be AWS, Google, or others. As I said before – welcome to the neighborhood, Amazon!