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Cloud services for mobile developers: Google vs. Amazon vs. Azure vs. Parse

Peter Wayner | Jan. 23, 2014
Cloud-based back ends for mobile applications combine key services with varying degrees of complexity

In the end, all the APIs offer a substantial boost for anyone building a basic database-backed server, which is the bulk of the job for mobile code. The job of pushing data to the users, though, is still a work in progress. The code was messy and the APIs complex. Much of it is still experimental. It's not simple to create something that will push bits to millions of clients, even using these tools.

The part that stood out was Microsoft's packaging of a JavaScript server — one of the nicest and most flexible options. It doesn't offer any fancy debugging support or the ability to dig into the complex guts of the system, but you can accomplish something quite useful without worrying about any of those things. It won't offer enough flexibility for people with complex apps, but it might be a mistake to get hung up on this. Much can be done with the basic building blocks. It may make the most sense to just embrace the simplicity and redesign the app to match it.

  • Huge variety of services
  • Tools include ways to enhance existing services for mobile use
  • Industry-leading infrastructure with deep access to underlying instance layer
  • Broad collection of APIs, including essentials like maps
  • Continuous queries offer sophisticated filtering/pipelining
  • Rich tools suited to larger teams building reliable applications
  • A clean way to build simple Web services based on JSON calls
  • Essentially an interface to Node.js
  • Provides code editor in your browser
  • Well-integrated collection of libraries supports numerous mobile platforms
  • Extensive documentation
  • Nice aesthetic makes it simpler to create good-looking apps
  • Size and complexity can be daunting
  • Instance focus can require more work
  • Mostly Java-based and complex
  • Plenty of interaction with Google Play Services
  • Tilted toward Microsoft tools and languages
  • Lacks robust debugging
  • Command-line focus
  • Prices are transparent for Basic and Pro levels, but not for Enterprise level


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