What is mobile platform as a service (mPaaS)?
Mobile platform as a service (mPaaS) is a specialized type of PaaS designed to provide an integrated development environment (IDE), deployment platform, lifecycle management and analytics for mobile/web applications.
Enterprises often use mPaaS to create custom applications for both internal and customer-facing use. This capacity can help support a BYOD environment and productivity apps without requiring mobile application developers and extra IT for support for mobile devices.
Like most PaaS offerings, mPaaS isn't a single thing but rather a suite or ecosystem of related tools designed to provide a wide assortment of features and functionalities that can vastly accelerate mobile application development, testing, deployment, management and updating/patching.
MPaaS is designed to be quick and easy -- often eliminating much of the traditional time-consuming processes involved in software development projects such as mobile application development. Thus, mPaaS typically requires no coding skills. An mPaaS IDE usually features an object-oriented drag-and-drop interface to simplify development of HTML5 or native apps with direct access to a device's sensors, GPS, accelerometer, camera, microphone and other functions. MPaaS often supports multiple mobile operating systems.
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Delivered over the web through a browser, mPaaS might support public cloud, private cloud and on-premises storage. Web apps can be created and then connected to back ends with a few lines of code. MPaaS is generally a leased cloud service with pricing per month that varies according to the number of devices and supported features.
Common mPaaS benefits and features
All mPaaS platforms work to simplify, streamline and accelerate the development of software applications by hosting an environment of integrated development tools. MPaaS should provide an array of benefits and features including:
- Shorter software development time. The tools included in an mPaaS should help software creators shepherd a project from inception through testing to deployment and ongoing analytics. The tool set should forego most coding tasks, eliminate the need to pick and integrate tools in-house and lead to low time-to-value metrics.
- More effective software testing. The integrated development environment should support a wide range of testing options and scenarios that enable faster and more comprehensive testing. This should yield shorter test cycles, more efficient testing and lower testing costs.
- Easier software deployment. MPaaS should offer varied deployment options including hosted deployments -- running the software on the mPaaS provider's infrastructure.
- Optimized tools. The tools included in an mPaaS suite are all tested and validated to work well together, sharing data and workflow to create a single overarching development experience. Organizations don't need to cobble together disparate development tools in-house.
MPaaS is increasingly used to help organizations quickly prototype applications and validate new ideas or features -- sometimes on the fly -- which can also simplify and speed development efforts when compared to traditional development paradigms.
Examples of mPaaS solutions, products, offerings
Typical mPaaS offerings include a range of capabilities and features such as:
- automated code generation that is stable and optimized;
- visual, drag-and-drop interfaces;
- easy reusability of visual building blocks and other code components;
- security for mobile applications and devices;
- collaboration mode, so multiple contributors can share the project;
- message push to ping and engage app users;
- single-click mobile application deployment to local, private or public cloud; and
- monitoring and analytics to track how the application is used.
It can be difficult to find mPaaS vendors given the niche nature of many PaaS categories, but several mPaaS vendors stand out, such as:
- Alibaba Cloud
- Appian low-code
- Mendix Application Platform as a Service
- Microsoft Power Apps
- Neptune DX
- Oracle Application Express (APEX)
- WaveMaker Rapid Application Development (RAD)
- Zoho Creator
Mobile applications are a growing part of any business strategy, so mobile application development can be a critical software task. As with most outside product or service providers, it's important to evaluate and test potential mPaaS platforms and try them in actual proof-of-principle projects before making a commitment to any one platform or provider.