Is Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) Dead? My Thoughts on Facebook Shutting Down Parse

Co-founder of Parse, Kevin Lacker, announced on January 28, 2016 that Parse will be shutting down its services on January 28, 2017. He highlighted a great migration strategy for those app developers currently using Parse. Facebook also open sourced Parse’s SDK and Parse’s server allowing developers to host their own Parse server. When I first read this, I was shocked. I played around with Parse and loved how fast you can quickly get a functional working application, whether for the web or mobile devices.

Parse is considered a Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) product. There are many other companies currently doing this such as Firebase (acquired by Google in 2014) and others. Before Parse there was StackMob which was acquired by PayPal and shut down its services in 2014. So what is the problem with BaaS companies? Is there even a problem?

 

Control of the backend

I believe that many companies and developers still want to maintain control of their backend and handing it off to third party companies, especially companies like Facebook (Parse) or Google (Firebase), scares them. Controlling and maintaining your own backend for your application has tons of benefits but it also requires more time, resources, money and effort.

 

BaaS might be good for prototyping

After using Parse and Firebase one of the aspects I loved about it was being able to build a fully functional working application. This was great for prototyping and showing what is possible to a client or potential client. It also allows you to really focus on the application itself and the user experience.

 

Developers can focus on making sure the client is pleased with what they’re getting and everything they want is captured in the application. Once it is finalized they can move to a production level back-end where they know exactly what data they are saving. This also can help determine what type of backend architecture to use for the production level application based of the prototype.

BaaS is great for entrepreneurs new to tech

A young high school student who does not have the finances or knowledge to build a full fledged application can utilize third party BaaS products to get a head start with their app idea. Entrepreneurs who don’t have technical experience working with database and backend architecture can also use their basic HTML and JavaScript skills to build their app using BaaS. In fact Mark Zuckerberg said that he wished Parse existed when he was building Facebook. I would recommend new developers and fresh entrepreneurs to try BaaS products for their startup idea. It can be a way to flesh out the idea and encourage feedback from users, potential clients and advisors/investors.

Why did Facebook Shutdown Parse?

I can’t really say but a co-worker of mine pointed out that it’s not really part of the Facebook service/product offering and they were entering a space where they would be competing with big players such as Amazon with AWS, Microsoft with Azure and Google with their Cloud Platform. Google has already documented how to host a Parse server on the Google Cloud Platform. Facebook also has shown great growth in their financial numbers which leads me to believe closing Parse had nothing to do with making money and mostly on the future and focus of Facebook’s offering. As this Business Insider article alludes they basically wanted to get out of the Cloud hosting business.

The future of BaaS

It’s hard to say if Parse shutting down will have any negative or positive affects to the BaaS community. I believe it is still a very important and innovative service for developers and companies. I also believe learning and building your own backend is just as important. It all depends on what you are looking for, what you need at the time, and how much time and money you are willing to spend.

Amir Sahib