AWS mobile notification service – bummer news for BaaS crowd

Amazon Web Services announced a new mobile push service for sending out notifications to iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire devices. It’s super cheap: one million notifications a month are free and after that it's $1 per million messages.

This announcement should have the backend-as-a-service crowd worried, or at least madly pursuing new kinds of value added services. While push notifications is one service that the BaaS providers offer, they must be worried about whether AWS and other cloud services will start adding other services that also compete.

nervous_0.jpgSource: goldberg, via Flickr

BaaS providers like Parse (now owned by Facebook), Stackmob, Kinvey, Urban Airship and others got their start offering an easy way for developers to add push notification and other services to their mobile apps. The thinking is that those kinds of functions take time to implement but are pretty much the same across apps. So if you’re building lots of apps, it’d be better to spend your time on other features that add more value to your app.

But it’s become clear over the past year that cloud providers are growing more interested in offering these kinds of services themselves. First there was Azure, which has been adding enough new mobile features that Kinvey said it planned to stop hosting its service on Azure.

Google has also added some mobile services, but apparently they don’t encroach enough on BaaS territory to annoy the BaaS crowd.

And now it’s Amazon. It’s going to be hard for BaaS providers to dump AWS in protest. Instead, they’ll have to try to focus on other features and services that might be less interesting for the cloud providers to offer themselves.

In a blog post, Urban Airship put on a bright face about the AWS news, but when a company “welcomes” this kind of news, it’s often a veiled message of concern.

Urban Airship seems to see the writing on the wall though. “We’ve always known that push notifications at the transport layer will become commoditized, which explains all of our efforts over the last two years to add advanced features and shift our focus from developer resource to a platform for Mobile Relationship Management,” Scott Kveton from Urban Airship wrote in a blog post about the AWS news.

Kinvey had a similar message. “The AWS offering is meaningful for developers who want to incorporate messaging into their app's underlying infrastructure. Yet if a developer wants a complete backend, then we like to think that we're a viable option,” said Joe Chernov, vice president of marketing for Kinvey.

It will be curious to see how many other cloud providers follow in Microsoft and Amazon’s footsteps. In getting into the BaaS space, the providers risk alienating the BaaS providers, which also happen to be their customers. The BaaS providers don’t have their own clouds, they run their services on one or many clouds.

Terremark once told me that it didn’t plan to offer these kinds of services itself because it figured it would benefit more by serving multiple BaaS providers. But given Amazon’s position in the market, BaaS providers are unlikely to abandon AWS since their customers may want to use AWS.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring and on Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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