In today's digital economy, there is a growing demand for software applications that serve the specific needs of the modern, digital consumer – from anywhere, anytime, on any device. In the coming years, technologies like AI, Robotics, and Internet-of-Things (IoT) will dominate consumer spending on digital technologies. Companies developing mobile apps and web applications will seek to connect their applications to a cloud-powered backend.
Going ahead, an “API-first” development approach will emerge as the norm, where the APIs are constructed first as the base for various digital platforms. This is in complete contrast to the “traditional” top-down approach, where the application is created first, before developing the “backend” to support different platforms.
Backend-as-a-Service (or BaaS) is the cloud service that automates backend development. As the global BaaS market continues to grow, it is providing backend support to various development approaches like low-code/no-code and serverless computing.
What does Backend-as-a-Service really mean and how is it different from other cloud services? Let’s explore.
What is BaaS and how does it work?
Essentially, BaaS is a cloud-based service model where application developers outsource the backend aspects of their product to a cloud-hosted platform. With BaaS, web or mobile app developers only need to take care of its frontend capabilities and client-side logic.
The “outsourced” BaaS platform manages every other application requirement including:
- Database management
- Data storage in the cloud
- Email verification
- Security configuration
- Push notifications (only for mobile apps)
And much more!
Using BaaS, developers can focus on writing the frontend application code using APIs and SDKs. APIs can enable applications to make requests to another tool or application. SDKs serve as toolkits for building a web or mobile application.
How does BaaS work? As is evident, BaaS works in the cloud platform. BaaS offers a three-layered approach comprising of:
- The Foundation layer comprises cloud servers that are used to run the application and store the backups.
- The Applications layer is used to handle and process user requests (for example, user sign-on).
- The Connections layer, where the application server accesses the Internet.
The API and SDK are the "bridge" between the frontend (what the users view) and the backend operations. Effectively, app developers can use the backend functionality (without building it themselves). Hence, with the BaaS approach, product companies need not manage the servers, virtual machines, and containers required to keep the applications running.
Next, let us see how BaaS is different from other cloud services.
How is BaaS different from other cloud services?
In recent times, we have seen a variety of cloud-based services like Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Serverless computing. How is the BaaS model different from them?
PaaS tools enable easy application management but lack capabilities like user authentication and push notifications. BaaS enables all PaaS functionalities and provides digital accelerators to build the backend functionalities.
Conceptually, BaaS is similar to Serverless computing, as developers (in both approaches) focus on writing their application code without thinking of the backend support.
Here are the areas where BaaS differs from Serverless computing:
- The serverless architecture is extremely event-driven. This means serverless applications only execute in response to events or triggers. BaaS applications are not event-driven; hence they consume more server resources.
- Serverless applications can operate on any machine, provided they communicate with other applications. With serverless architectures, developers can incorporate edge computing into the architecture by running the code. BaaS is not designed to run application code from any machine at any time.
- Scalability is the most significant difference between BaaS and serverless computing. With serverless, applications can scale up automatically with growing usage. The serverless infrastructure assigns more server resources to enable scalability. BaaS does not automatically scale up the application. However, many BaaS vendors now offer automatic scaling.
Despite these differences, product companies must use BaaS. Here’s why.
Why should product companies use BaaS?
The BaaS platform enables product companies to speed up their backend development (without managing or scaling up their cloud infrastructure). For small-to-medium software projects, BaaS offers significant benefits through productivity and cost gains through outsourcing.
Overall, BaaS provides a competitive advantage with:
- Reduced time-to-market for applications
- Reduced cost of development
- Reduced demand for backend developers
From a technical standpoint, BaaS enables frontend app developers to concentrate on developing their frontend functionality. This means advantages in terms of:
- Eliminating the setup of the redundant technology stack.
- Eliminating the need to code application boilerplates.
- Standardizing the overall app coding environment.
- Leveraging ready-to-use backend features like user authentication and data storage.
- Focusing on developing the business logic.
When should product companies use BaaS? Here are a few use cases:
- Creating a Minimum Viable Product (or MVP).
- Creating standalone applications that require a minimum level of integrations.
- Creating enterprise applications that are not mission critical.
Applications that are best suited for BaaS include real-time chat or messaging apps (like Slack), transportation apps (like Uber), online games, eCommerce, and music (or video) apps.
The Backend-as-a-Service or BaaS approach can simplify application development and provide access to various platforms (just like serverless). As outlined in this article, we have discussed the most popular features of BaaS platforms like scalable databases, APIs, and user authentication. What's more, BaaS is designed to work for most web and mobile apps.
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