Enterprise mobile consolidation: Why MBaaS won’t survive as a standalone platform

Picture credit: miniyo73/Flickr

By Jesus Rodriguez, CEO, Kidozen

Mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) has become one of the most interesting platforms in the mobile space. Despite its importance, we have lately seen how MBaaS platforms are slowly becoming part of broader offerings.

Whether you think about the Facebook acquisition of Parse, Amazon launching AWS mobile services or other mobile offerings, there is a notable trend pushing MBaaS solutions as part of more complete solutions. Plain and simple, MBaaS platforms are on a path to not survive as a standalone category.

From a platform to a feature

If we follow the perspective of a team responsible from developing and productizing a mobile perspective, we can quickly realize that MBaaS platforms are already being considered a feature of a bigger platform offering.

The reasoning here is very simple. While MBaaS technologies provide important capabilities to mobile solutions in the form of mobile-first APIs, this is hardly sufficient to enable production-ready mobile experience. Capabilities such as analytics, distribution, management and testing are equally relevant when it comes to building mobile solutions. As a result, mobile development and production teams often end up using an entire portfolio of mobile platforms in order to build and release mobile applications.

Even though the factors explained previously are certainly relevant, the reasons for the evolution of MBaaS platforms are not only technological but also environmental. As the mobile technology ecosystem evolves, the capabilities provided by MBaaS are becoming relevant to other mobile platforms such as enterprise mobile management (EMM) or API Gateways. This is a very specific example of a larger phenomenon that is taking place in the mobile technology market: consolidation.

Consolidation in the mobile space is inevitable

As mobile technologies continue evolving there has been an increasing need to move from isolated product offerings to more complete multi-feature platforms. If you take a snapshot of the current mobile platform ecosystem, we can see an incredibly fragmented picture with offerings on several categories including:

  • Mobile app development
  • Mobile backend-as-a-service
  • Mobile app testing
  • Mobile app performance monitoring
  • Mobile app distribution
  • Mobile app management
  • Mobile device management

Although innovative, this level of fragmentation represents a challenge for organizations evaluating solutions to build a complete mobile infrastructure. In most cases, organizations end up with four to seven technologies in order to address their requirements. As a result, there is a high demand in the market for more complete end to end platforms.

In addition to the demand for end to end solutions there are others factors pushing the markets towards an inevitable consolidation. From those factors, it is worth highlighting the immediate need from platforms such as mobile device management (MDM) to expand the value proposition.

With the rapid evolution of the mobile technology market, some of the first generation platforms such as MDM platforms have reached their maximum market cap as companies are struggling to differentiate from each other in an increasingly commoditised market. In that sense, a natural step for those vendors will be to expand their value proposition via acquisitions.

With some many factors pushing the mobile market towards consolidation it seems inevitable that many of the existing offerings will merge into more complete mobile platforms. From the existing ecosystem of mobile platforms MBaaS will be one of the first offerings to be consolidated into broader platform offerings.

Why MBaaS won’t survive as a standalone offering

The enterprise mobile market is headed for an imminent consolidation but that doesn’t necessarily mean that MBaaS platforms won’t survive as a standalone offering. However, there are additional factors that make MBaaS one of the most attractive acquisition offerings in the case of a consolidation in the enterprise mobile space:

  • MBaaS is a foundational piece of enterprise mobile solutions: MBaaS platforms provide capabilities such as integration with enterprise systems or backend services which are key to almost any mobile solution in the market.
  • MBaaS is highly complementary to existing mobile platform offerings: Functionally, MBaaS platforms highly complement enterprise mobile management or mobile business applications which have gained the biggest market traction in the enterprise mobile space.
  • MBaaS players haven’t achieved critical mass: Even though MBaaS is becoming an important part of mobile solutions none of the existing MBaaS players have accomplished enough critical mass to dominate the market.
  • Middleware becomes a component of bigger platforms: Let’s just look back in history, Tibco, Web Methods, BEA, Informatica, etc. In all these cases, the middleware platforms typically started as standalone offerings and evolved as a foundational piece of broader platforms.

When factoring in the aforementioned elements, it is clear why MBaaS is not likely to survive the upcoming wave of consolidation. Therefore, the next logical question would be to identify the segments of the mobile application ecosystem that could benefit from embracing MBaaS technologies.

1) MBaaS as part of PaaS

Platform as a service (PaaS) solutions have evolved in recent years providing a series of cloud-first services to power distributed systems such as web applications.

Recently, various PaaS vendors such as Microsoft or Salesforce.com have expanded their offerings with small MBaaS offerings. Following that trend, we can think of Paas platform vendors expanding their mobile-first offering by acquiring some of the lead MBaaS providers in the market.

2) MBaaS as part of mobile apps platforms

Mobile application platform solutions have evolved providing a vehicle for implementing mobile applications. Some of those platforms are mainly focused on the frontend aspects of the applications while others target important backend infrastructure and services of mobile apps such as integration, analytics and distribution.

Regardless of their area of focus, these type of platforms are constantly experiencing a high demand for providing more end to end offerings that address several challenges of enterprise mobile solutions. Even though some mobile app platform providers already include MBaaS solutions as part of their offering, we can envision this becoming a more general trend.

3) MBaaS as part of enterprise mobile management platforms

Enterprise mobile management (EMM) platforms have evolved under the premise of providing the infrastructure to manage mobile devices and applications in the enterprise. From the maturity standpoint, EMM is by far the most developed segment in the enterprise mobile market Consequently, EMM vendors are increasingly trying to differentiate themselves in a highly commoditized market. MBaaS solutions provide a natural vehicle for EMM platforms to expand their value proposition into new complementary areas such as mobile data management or integration.

4) MBaaS as part of API gateways

API gateways have evolved by providing organizations with the infrastructure needed to virtualise and manage custom APIs. In some very narrow context, API gateways and MBaaS platforms have been perceived as competitors while they are, in fact, highlly complementary solutions.

MBaaS platforms can offer API gateways a series of pre-built APIs such as connectors to line of business systems that can become a key ingredient of their value proposition.

Summary

MBaaS platforms are likely to evolve as part of a broader enterprise mobile offering strategy. With the enterprise mobile market headed for an inevitable consolidation, MBaaS platforms are not likely to survive as a standalone category and rather become a foundational component of more complete mobile platforms. From the different segments of the market, EMM platforms, API gateways, mobile app platforms and PaaS solutions can become the new home of MBaaS platforms.

 

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Bipin
1 Oct 2014, 6:29 a.m.

Interesting perspectives Jesus!!

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