San Francisco-based FatFractal is today launching a competitor to backend-as-a-service (BaaS) providers like Stackmob, Parse, Kinvey, and Applicasa, and it’s not just following in the others’ footsteps – it has a completely different take on how using the cloud on the backend should work. It’s not that the team at FatFractal thinks that the “cloud as a service” model is the wrong idea, exactly. It’s just that the way it’s been implemented to date isn’t how they think it should work – that is, a “black box on the backend.” FatFractal CMO David Lasner even had some fighting words for the competition: “they may be on the wrong path,” he proclaims.
So what’s unique about FactFractal’s viewpoint?
“We believe that viewing the cloud as a service and by focusing on giving people easy hooks just from the client side, they’ve missed something,” says Lasner, explaining how FatFractal differs from current BaaS offerings. “There’s no reason you can’t look at the backend as another way to [provide] easy-access services – you can have backend SDKs, you can trap events and manage them in a very easy way – in other words, you don’t have to just do it through the client,” he says.
[Update: Stackmob points out that it does both client side and server side code / hooks.]
FatFractal’s platform arrives today after a relatively short testing period – the company was founded in January, and the private beta only began in March. However, the technology had been in development for two years prior. The market value proposition is that FatFractal is a platform for building apps, but the key for this company is that it wants that development to take place in a native environment. “For the life of us, we cannot understand why people who are also claiming native are taking the approach of using hashmaps and dictionaries and converting everything, rather than using the native objects that you’re provided in Objective C or Java or any other environment,” says Lasner.
That leads to FatFractal’s first big differentiator: it uses the same object model and data model as whatever your coding environment provides. It can also take a developer’s data model and turns it into a data graph, expose events out of the box, trap them and send them to any code on the backend, and it offers a security model that includes declarative security as a default and dynamic security – that is, you can change things at runtime and at the object level. And finally, the platform is engine-based – very much like Google App Engine (a PaaS) – not a set of SDKs as a service, Lasner explains. So it’s a BaaS-like PaaS. (Ha.)
And if that prior paragraph was too jargon-y for you (if not, please proceed to Hacker News), the long and short of it is that FatFractal aims to help developers speed time to launch by allowing them to code not just more quickly, but more elegantly, because it’s allowing developers to code natively. “It takes 50% less code to do the same thing,” Lasner states. The clients also stay snappy because analysis and queries aren’t happening on the client side, he adds. Plus, because the engine can be deployed anywhere – even locally – developers can access the tools they need and don’t have to worry with network connectivity, while also testing their app in an identical environment to the cloud.
Well, it sounds good, right? Let’s see how this baby runs. I asked FatFractal how many developers were testing it and who, but outside of an app for the Telluride Film Festival, Lasner said he didn’t have permission to release developers’ names. One app is a new payment service on iOS that expects to have tens of thousands of users, but that’s all he could say. (There’s also this guy, who really likes it and offers a more technical perspective.)
Pricing is competitive with other BaaS players and is available on the company’s website. FatFractal’s co-founders include Kevin Nickels, David Lasner, Gary Casey, Mic Holst and Dina Matta. The company has less than $1 million in angel funding.