MBaaS reviews

Review: FeedHenry uses Node.js to fortify mobile apps

man holding iPhone with flying apps
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FeedHenry boosts enterprise mobile applications with rich client and tools support, as well as fast, scalable, Node.js-based back-end services

A few years ago, the mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) seemed to be the likely answer to the huge challenge of creating groups of mobile applications that work together and integrate with enterprise data. In hindsight, MEAP systems, which typically combined a back-end server and middleware stack with a client application, seem excessively expensive and heavyweight.

The current trend is toward MBaaS (mobile back end as a service) platforms, loosely coupled with native, Web, and hybrid mobile applications. An MBaaS -- which might be focused on business applications, consumer applications, or both -- places much of the logic onto the mobile device, while enforcing security and managing the data at the back end. Even traditional MEAP vendors, such as Kony, are now offering MBaaS platforms.

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FeedHenry is a Node.js-based, enterprise-oriented MBaaS and mobile application platform with a wide array of integrations, both online and offline development options, collaborative app building, and a drag-and-drop form builder. FeedHenry was spun off from the Irish Research Institute in 2010. The company describes its offering as a cloud platform for building mobile-first solutions, both B2C and B2E, with a focus on enterprise line-of-business apps. FeedHenry claims to have global infrastructure on all major clouds, as well as support for on-premise back-end deployment.

Note that FeedHenry is priced only for enterprise customers. The company does not currently sell to independent developers or small to midsized businesses.

FeedHenry has impressive customer apps in its catalog. For example, Aer Lingus built a multiplatform app for mobile check-in, flight search, real-time status updates, and flight bookings. The original app had a 10-week time to market. The app integrates with eight back-end systems through the FeedHenry cloud.

Built on Node.js
The FeedHenry back end is built on Node.js. That was a bit ahead of its time in 2010, but is quite fashionable now. Today Node.js is often used for building fast, scalable network applications. Node has an event-driven, nonblocking I/O model that makes it lightweight and efficient compared to, say, Java Server Pages or ASP.Net. Node lets developers make code asynchronous without the hassle of threads and synchronization. The Node community is growing fast, with more than 70,000 public Node modules in the ecosystem. Enough Node modules deal with back-end data integration that FeedHenry can boast lots of integration points without having to build many of them internally.

On the downside, Node.js can be tricky to debug. As a weakly typed dynamic language, JavaScript doesn't give you much in the way of bug checking prior to deployment, although the various JavaScript linting tools can help.

With FeedHenry 3, the online environment integrates directly with GitHub. This carries a number of meanings, all of them good. You can get access to your source code from your own computer and develop offline when it's convenient; check your local code back in, and it will be reflected in the online repository. Teams can collaborate on both the cloud and app sides of a FeedHenry project without stepping on one another's changes. You can also build binaries of an app in the cloud, as I'll discuss later.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Integrations (20%)
Client support (20%)
Value (10%)
Back-end services (20%)
Ease of use (20%)
Monitoring (10%)
Overall Score
FeedHenry 3 9 9 8 9 8 8 8.6
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