Backend headaches be gone?

Backend-as-a-service CloudMine leaps out of beta

Chris Mayer

A fresh new startup provides the scaffolding for budding mobile app developers, but will it deprive them of a invaluable learning curve?

As any developer may know, getting the best out of your new cutting-edge app in today’s climate is tough. Many are simply bewildered by a tsunami of new technologies and face sheer frustration when crafting their application to be able to deal with the developing fields of mobile, big data and cloud – and there doesn’t appear to be any quick-fix solution. Until now.

Nine months after starting out, Philadelphia start-up CloudMine have jumped out of beta with the 1.0 version of CloudMine. Essentially a backend-as-a-service, it takes away much of the dredgework needed getting an application running by providing a stack that “takes away the entire mess of infrastructure and web service software development” and does all the data management for you.

By connecting to CloudMine’s flexible API, available on GitHub with a variety of SDK flavours (Android, Java, Javascript, PHP), app developers can take away the stresses of fighting server fires and building custom server-side apps in order to focus on the glossy world of front-end development to entice users. Talking to VentureBeat, CEO Brendan McCorkle said that CloudMine builds “that scaffolding so you don’t have to.”

He added: “Essentially, we can abstract away the backend. We can abstract away EC2…that enables you as an app developer to focus on your core competency and do your thing.”

So, CloudMine does all the data storage, user account management, password encryption, any sort of permissioning, dealing with public and private data, and scaling. Doesn’t that take away valuable lessons? Isn’t this just a massive dumbing down?

Whilst we see the worth in an bootstrap/service like this – reducing the tedium in constructing the same old codebase over and over – it’s clearly aimed at enterprises who are going to the whole thing blind. They simply don’t want to invest the time and effort into infrastructure that could be riddled with flaws, so want all that alleviated from their mind so they can focus on doing what they know correctly.

But doesn’t bypassing how to build the underlying components completely deprive the enterprise of a valuable learning curve? Only from learning how to cope with such high pressures can an enterprise truly push their product on. Perhaps for some the risk is too great not to rely on external services, such as with mobile flash-in-the-pan Draw Something, whose use of Couchbase with the game early on made sure that they could handle an phenomenal amount of strain on their databases and servers.

One advantage of CloudMine is the pricing strategy – $.05 per active user per month, or custom pricing for large data consumers. This flexibility means enterprises aren’t tied in to a plan, and can act and scale upon popularity. One thing we’re slightly in the dark about is exactly what “abstract[ing] away EC2” exactly entails. CloudMine makes a lot of bold claims but we’re still none the wiser on how it actually works, bar a handy diagram or two.

Many are looking for that click of the fingers to solve their backend headaches, and CloudMine might just be able to provide – juicing up their applications for mobile and web platforms. It does seem like an alluring option for startups, but we’re yet to be convinced it’s the best option for enterprises. As CloudMine leaves its beta version, it remains to be seen if the plucky platform expands beyond 1500 applications already running on the plucky platform.

There’s almost certainly a market for this type of thing for those wanting something there and then, but it might just create an conveyor belt-type culture with some mobile apps that kills the backend aspect of development. Granted, some developers ought to focus on getting the UX part of their application, but that doesn’t mean they should could complete siphon off the harder work unless they really have to.

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