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February 19, 2014 kevin nickels

A guide for migrating from StackMob to another provider

There have been a number of developments in the Backend as a Service space over the last 12 months, including the acquisition of Parse by Facebook and of StackMob by PayPal with the subsequent announcement of the shuttering of their service on May 11.

If you have an application deployed or in development on StackMob and are looking for a provider replacement, there are a few things that you should consider:

  1. Client-side libraries (SDKs).
  2. Changes to your client code that are required.
  3. Custom code.
  4. Webapp assets.
  5. Migration of your data.

Open Source Baas Test Suite

If you want a good way to compare providers based on a real test suite, Cory Wyles has written an excellent open source test suite the you can use to compare different Baas providers capabilities – on GitHub here. Or, you can read the report summary here.

Client-side libraries (SDKs)

You will obviously need to replace your client-side libraries with the ones provided by your new provider. A few factors to consider that directly relates to the portability of your app.

  1. Support for native classes versus proprietary object classes or protocols
  2. SDK Size and External dependencies.
Native versus proprietary models

Depending upon which devices your current project is targeting, the StackMob implementation will use a variety of object model approaches (iOS – NSDictionary or NSManagedObject, Android – StackMobModel, HTLM5/JS - StackMob.Model which is built upon Backbone.js’s Model) which you will need to replace with the ones specified by your new provider. Most providers require the use of their proprietary object classes or a proprietary protocol. Support for Core Data varies from none to good.

FatFractal is the only provider that support pure, native classes on the client side and is consistent across all devices. Migrating to FatFractal involves removing these proprietary artifacts and replacing them with device native models (iOS – NSObject, NSManagedObject or NSDictionary, Android – Java Object, HTLM5/JS – Javascript Object). This will actually simplify and reduce the size of your application as well.

SDK Size and external dependencies

You will also notice that the size of the SDKs from the various providers range widely in size. The StackMob iOS SDK, for example is 4.5MB in size with 5 external dependencies and others are as large as 23MB with as many as 11 external dependencies. StackMob’s JS SDK requires BackBone.js as a dependency.

FatFractal provides the same or better functionality in our SDKs and is the smallest by far (the iOS SDK, for example is less than 3MB) and with no external dependencies for iOS or JS, with a single dependency on Jackson libraries for JSON serialization/deserialization for Android.  Of course, our JS SDK works perfectly with BackBone.js as well Angular.js or any other as you prefer.

Client code changes

The other changes to your client code involve how you initialize the SDK for your client as well as specific method signatures for interacting with your data. These changes are fairly minor with one caveat – and that is queries. FatFractal provides far more powerful query capabilities which can reduce the number of round-trips that are required to get to the data that your client needs.

Custom code

Stackmob’s custom code provides custom API endpoints for special functions that you require and includes external http request to make external API calls as well as control over how you set the response. Your custom code must be written in Java, Scala or Clojure. Most providers provide a similar capabilities albeit most use Javascript and not Java, but you should check to make sure that the functionality you need is available from the provider.

A key capability you will likely need is access to an http client in order to access external API data.

In addition to custom API endpoints (which we call server extensions, read about them here), access to an http client and email support, FatFractal also provides event based custom code (we call this an Event Handler, read more about them here) which allows for business logic to be included in your application backend. Kinvey now provides a similar capability.

Web app assets and CORS support

If you need to serve up a web version of your application or just an administrative page for your app, then you will want to make sure that your provider provides support for web asset hosting as StackMob does.  Most providers, most notably Kinvey do not offer this functionality!

FatFractal has, from the beginning provided full, easy support for serving up your web assets including CORS support as well as URL mapping.

Data Migration

There are two ways to deal with migrating your data from StackMob to another provider.

  1. Export from StackMob and import to your new provider.
  2. Access the StackMob API directly and move all data via the current API.

There is no right answer to this question, and data migration is always a bit tricky. You should make sure that you can test out the reliability of data migration from your StackMob backend to a new provider to make sure that you will get the results that you want.

FatFractal is happy to help you with either approach – no charge – to make sure that your data can be made available from your new backend easily. Just contact us at Help with StackMob Migration.

A final note – and this pertains to how much control you have over your environment. This post has primarily talked about running your backend on various providers public cloud offering. FatFractal also offers you the ability to run the entire cloud fabric yourself wherever you want – Amazon, Rackspace and even your own servers. We call that Cloud-in-a-Box and you can learn more about that here.

We know that you have many options for where to run your apps. We at FatFractal think we offer all the relevant functionality StackMob does – from core data support to custom code – but also have a number of additional functionality and performance benefits too. On top of that, our developer support always gets rave reviews. So, we’d be delighted if you came to us!

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