Partner Post: StackMob - Three Huge Reasons to Use a PaaS for Mobile Apps

November 09, 2011 - by alexsalkever

(This a guest blog post from Joyent Cloud solution and technology partner StackMob. We love what they are doing by making it stupid simple to manage and deploy mobile apps. Here they explain why choosing a PaaS for mobile app development and hosting is a no-brainer. Warning - sales pitch ahead, but good content). 

StackMob at its essence is a Platform-as-a-Service for mobile developers and companies. We strive to make it ridiculously easy to get a backend up and running so our clients can focus on creating awesome mobile apps. When using StackMob, we automatically take care of all the configuration and management of servers that is immediately necessary when using a cloud infrastructure like the Joyent Cloud. There’s no need to deal with DNS headaches or upgrading software packages or load balancing across servers. You never need to “spin up” an instance. We make sure that your code is always up and running and your content is delivered quickly.

These are some of the general benefits of using a PaaS provider, but there are many infrastructure problems specific to mobile apps. And that is where StackMob shines. Three of these issues are: Security, API Versioning, and Push Notifications.

  • Security - Security and authentication can be a sticky issue for mobile apps. No one wants to wants to wake up and read that their favorite app has been sending their personal information, or worse, their password, in plaintext over the Internet. One recent report found that up to 10% of mobile apps are storing passwords as plaintext right on the device. And once an insecurity is exposed you’re stuck, as an update could take weeks to be approved by Apple. Even then not all your users will upgrade en masse. With StackMob, we bake SSL support and the industry standard OAuth into every single call to our servers. And there’s no need to fuss with OAuth headers.The provided iOS and Android SDKs handle all the details. ‘Users’ of an app are a first-class concept within StackMob. And we ensure passwords, Facebook, and Twitter credentials are always protected.
  • Versioning - Because there can be multiple versions of your app in the wild, it can become necessary to maintain support for old API calls to prevent the previous versions from breaking. This can quickly become a maintenance nightmare. At StackMob, we are working on a system to version every single API call as well as provide graceful deprecation. We will maintain a complete history of the evolution of your API and safeguard your users against versioning obsolescence - regardless of what version of your software they are running.
  • Push Notifications - Push Notifications are a great way to provide real-time information to your users and keep them engaged with your app. But providing this functionality requires special push servers running 24/7. At StackMob we have built push right into the platform, so you can initiate a push message right from a device using the SDK, or server-side with a single line of code in your StackMob Custom Code.

Mitigating your Risks

When choosing a PaaS provider perhaps the biggest concern is “vendor lock-in”. No one wants to feel tied down forever, and we at StackMob always want our customers to feel comfortable. Our policy right from the beginning has been that your data is your data. We maintain no extra rights over it and we never share it with 3rd parties. Furthermore, all your data can be exported at any time. But beyond data portability, StackMob itself is a service-oriented system based on open standards. All server communication is through RESTful HTTP and JSON. Security is up to spec with OAuth. There are no byzantine custom protocols between you and your data.

“The Cloud” is Mainstream

The wild west days of “the cloud” are over. Almost all developers can agree on the major benefits of moving infrastructure to the cloud, and many new startups never purchase their own production servers - StackMob included. With Apple’s recent introduction and heavy promotion of iCloud, even regular consumers are becoming familiar with the concept of the cloud.

It is no longer sufficient to have a slick but static mobile app for success. Consumers are expecting their data to sync across devices effortlessly. They expect dynamic new content and tight integration with social media. And as data speeds on our phones continue to improve, this experience becomes more and more seamless. The fact is, almost all mobile apps can benefit from having a fully featured backend. At StackMob, it’s our goal to make building and running - those types of apps - and even cooler ones in the future - ridiculously easy.

Have any thoughts on the future of the cloud for mobile? Let us know in the comments.

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