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Parse migration: It's now or never for moving apps and data

The Parse mobile backend as a service shuts down on Jan. 27, 2017. If your Parse migration is not already complete, there's precious little time left. What are you waiting for?

With the Jan. 27, 2017, closure of Facebook's popular Parse mobile backend as a service, or MBaaS, application development platform drawing inexorably closer, there's little time left for laggards to move their application code and data to other providers of Parse-like services. If your mobile apps and data are still running on Facebook's Parse servers, what are you waiting for?

Though Parse's shutdown announcement on Jan. 28, 2016, caught developers worldwide by surprise, the service provided a Parse migration guide and suggested a one-year timeline to help. That timeline consisted of three milestones: Migrate databases to a self-hosted MongoDB database by April 28; move application code to another server running open source Parse software by July 28; and release an updated app by Sept. 28.

Numerous hosting providers stepped in, offering Parse migration services and a new home for code and data. The impending closure also presented developers with an opportunity to move away from Parse technology and retool their apps for other mobile development platforms.

Fortunately, the laggards appear to be few, according to Peruna Keremidchieva, the developer community manager with CloudStrap, a scalable cloud hosting provider based in Bulgaria. When asked if significant numbers of apps and databases still needed to be migrated, her observation was a simple "definitely not."

For Jeff Devine, CTO and co-owner at Rapid Response Emergency Systems (RRES), the shock of the shutdown announcement initially left him in a quandary. "Like most developers, I was very nervous when I heard about Parse shutting down."

RRES, based in Centennial, Colo., provides first-responder consulting and other emergency planning services for dealing with workplace violence and other public-safety threats. Devine built and maintains four Incident Response Information System (IRIS) mobile apps for RRES -- IRIS Responder for iOS and Android and IRIS Alert for iOS and Android. Separately, he created X-Stitch, an iOS and Android mobile app for aficionados of the craft of cross-stitching. All six apps were hosted on Parse.

Devine was skeptical about moving to a third-party open source implementation of the Parse server code, but it turned out to be a viable alternative. After testing several hosting services, including Amazon Web Services Elastic Beanstalk, he chose SashiDo, a Parse migration and hosting service based in Bulgaria and Germany.

"I'm shooting to have all my apps and customers migrated by Dec. 1," Devine said. "I'm not likely to get burned again if a vendor decides to go out of business."

Lingering reticence

The announcement that Parse would shut down not only surprised and angered developers, it left them wondering not only about Parse migration, but the likelihood of a similar action by other platform providers.

With the January 2017 deadline looming, we can't drag our feet any longer.
Jeff DevineCTO and co-owner, Rapid Response Emergency Systems

"Parse's shutdown created a feeling of suspiciousness about the whole industry," Keremidchieva said. "We tracked the mood among mobile developers, and we sensed their confusion and feeling of uncertainty and mistrust in the whole MBaaS industry. People are afraid of the next Parse scenario."

The problem for developers was when Facebook announced -- on Jan. 28, 2016 -- the closure, no third-party Parse clone existed. Apps and data needed to be moved, but to where? That changed quickly once Facebook open-sourced the server code. Anyone could set up a private server or contract with a commercial-grade provider.

Keremidchieva said developers fell into two different groups: one scared about the future of their applications and eager to find a Parse alternative, while those with a lower anxiety level chose to wait a couple of months for the provider market to stabilize before making a choice.

The challenge of doing a Parse migration, including data and image files, from Parse to a new MBaaS and the initial lack of free Parse alternatives prompted Devine to sit tight. "We were not in a big hurry to migrate," he said. "But now, with the January 2017 deadline looming, we can't drag our feet any longer."

Joel Shore is news writer for TechTarget's Business Applications and Architecture Media Group. Write to him at [email protected] or follow @JshoreTT on Twitter.

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