Choosing a Parse AlternativePosted by Itay Herskovits on Jan 30, 2016
You’ve probably heard that Parse is closing its doors. While they will keep the lights on until January 2017, if you use Parse, you probably want to replace it with a new Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) provider ASAP. Below we’ll look at the features offered by Parse, and how both Firebase and Backand stack up. We’ll explain what Parse had to offer, then look at the features in-depth to see why they matter for a BaaS provider.
A Brief Refresher on Parse
In case you’re not familiar with the back story, Parse is a BaaS focused on automating the most common tasks needed for web apps that are predominantly client-based. They offer data storage, scaling, analytics, security, storage, and a number of other useful features that you would typically need to purchase a physical server to implement. By implementing these features using common cloud-based providers, they are able to take the brunt of the back-end load for applications that don’t have extensive server-side computation needs.
Parse was acquired by Facebook in 2013 to drive a mobile development offering, serving as Facebook’s first foray into B2B services. However, Facebook decided to sunset the service, and as of January 28, 2016 Parse is closing down. They’ve open-sourced their code and offered migration plans for existing customers, and have given a generous time limit for the transition – Parse will go offline for good on January 28, 2017.
Examining Parse Alternatives
One of the first steps in choosing a BaaS provider is to understand what features are available from each. Below we will look at three providers. The first is Parse, to provide a baseline for the comparison. The second is Firebase, which is another popular provider that was acquired by Google in 2014. Finally, we’ll look at the list of features provided by Backand, and compare the three offerings. First, here’s a handy table to highlight the offerings of each provider:
|REST API based on Data|
|User Management & Social Media Integration|
|Server Side Code Execution|
|Push Notifications||via integration|
|Real-Time Database Connections|
|Bring your own database (portability)|
|Advanced Data Models|
|Server-side Integration with 3rd-party services|
Let’s take a look at each feature in-depth.
The following six features are available across all three BaaS providers.
All three providers give you a database to store your application’s data. While Parse and Firebase are based on NoSQL databases like Couchbase and MongoDB, Backand provides a relational database using Amazon RDS (although you can query it with a Mongo-like NoSQL syntax).
REST API Based on Data
In addition to the underlying database for storage, all three providers provide a RESTful API for your data that can be used by any app able to send a request to the endpoint.
User Management and Social Media Integration
User management focuses on managing access to your application by restricting access to registered users. Building off of this is Social Media Integration, which allows you to easily integrate your app with Facebook, Google, Github, and so on, simplifying the registration process. This is a feature offered by all three providers.
A web application is not very useful without a publicly-accessible URL. All three providers offer a hosting service that lets you, and your users, quickly find and use your app.
Most applications of any note need to deal with user files at some point. All three providers offer a means of storing files in the service, saving you the trouble of integrating with an Amazon S3 instance of your own.
Geolocation and Geo Queries
With mobile apps, knowing when and where your users are using your application can be crucial to pushing notifications and new functionality. All three providers provide a means of geo-locating the source request, and running functionality based on those results.
This next set of three features is only available on two of the three providers, with the providers indicated in each case. If your app depends on one of these features, you’ll need to be extra diligent when making your transition.
Server-Side Code Execution
Offered by: Parse, Backand
Offered by: Parse, Backand (with integration)
Most mobile apps rely upon some method of sending push notifications to the user, informing them of application actions. Parse offered this capacity as a part of their core functionality, and Backand makes this easy with both third-party integrations and server-side code execution.
Real-Time Database Communications
Offered by: Firebase, Backand
One of the key features of many web applications is responding as quickly as possible to underlying data changes. One feature not offered by Parse, that could be useful to apps that need real-time database capability, is Real-Time Database Communications. This is available on both Firebase and Backand, and eases the use of programming techniques like two-way data binding and event handling.
Offered by: Parse, Backand
A crucial component of web applications is assessing performance via analytics. Parse offers a robust suite of analytics tools that is fully integrated into your app. Backand takes a different approach, relying on its strength as an open platform, by giving you access to the RDS instance underlying your application. This approach allows easily connecting third-party tools to the database and constructing your own analytics suites. Firebase does not appear to offer analytics.
The following features are only available with Backand
Bring Your Own Database (aka Database Portability)
Of the three options, only Backand allows you to start from an existing database schema. Furthermore, Backand provides you with all of the relevant information necessary to connect to an individual Amazon RDS instance that drives your application, giving you the capability to connect other apps to your database at will.
Advanced Data Models
By running on top of a SQL-based database, Backand allows you to build advanced, complex, object-oriented data models that can be adapted to any application need. The data model can also be easily modified using a JSON specification, and the changes are reflected in your REST API within seconds.
Server-side Integration with Third-Party Applications
While any application can integrate with appropriate third-party applications on the client side, only Backand gives you the capability to drive that integration from within the server. This allows you to build secure applications that provide things like payment functionality – a feature that requires the security of a server to ensure your users’ data is kept as safely as possible. You can see a complete list of current integrations, as well as integrations upcoming in future releases.
Parse Migration Tools
In addition to the features described above, Backand now has a suite of Parse-to-Backand migration tools, which can be found here.