Dev

Firebase goes public with real-time backend and enterprise-grade pricing

Image Credit: James Tamplin

Firebase, a backend-as-a-service that focuses on serving real-time use cases, has finally launched to the public with a new pricing structure.

“We’re finally mature and ready for primetime,” cofounder James Tamplin told VentureBeat in a call yesterday.

“Since [Firebase's public beta in] February, we’ve had some great startups bet the farm on Firebase,” he continued, noting that some of those startups had gotten funding and even seen lucrative exits.

“We’ve also got enterprise companies like Disney and CBS. … We’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes. With infrastructure, the developer only sees the tip of the iceberg, and there’s a lot more under the water.”

The company will offer 100MB of storage and 5GB of bandwidth per month free of charge to developers.

Backend as a service is a hot trend among developers. It prevents them from having to scale up hardware or servers from a provider like Amazon Web Services or Rackspace. Firebase is a relatively new player, and competes against more mature players like Parse or Kinvey.

With Firebase, anyone with a basic understanding of HTML or Javascript can build an app, and Firebase will “do the rest.”

[Editor's note: Tamplin is one of the speakers at our upcoming CloudBeat 2013 event taking place on Sept. 9-10 in San Francisco. CloudBeat focuses on revolutionary cases of cloud usage, including everything-as-a-service for developers. Tamplin will demonstrate how Firebase is helping a customer called Simtable. Register here]

“There’s going to be a very large free tier,” said Tamplin. “Most of the people who get up and running on Firebase are hackathons or weekend projects, and we want to heavily encourage those people to use Firebase.”

Paid plans run from $50 to $1,500 per month, depending on your usage and how many people are on your team.

We asked Tamplin how he feels his company’s offering is substantially different from competitors Parse and Kinvey.

“We are the only backend that does real time,” he responded. “When you need a gaming app, a collaboration app, or a social app, you want to use us because we deliver the data to the user as it changes. The analogy we like to use is we’re like Box, but instead of synchronizing files and folders, we synchronize JSON.”

That theoretically makes Firebase the BaaS of choice for IM clients, Twitter clones, RSS readers, and the like.

“The difference between us and Parse or Kinvey is we’re much easier to use if you just want to add a feature to your app,” Tamplin added. “You don’t have to build it from scratch.”

The Firebase team also says its backend is uniquely scalable — a claim that gave us some pause, since everything scales — until it doesn’t.

“We have very large customers,” Tamplin responded, noting that videogame-streaming supersite Twitch.tv “has their entire traffic on Firebase. … And they’re building an IM service on Firebase.”

We also chatted a bit about server-side programming in Node.

“We love Node,” he told us. “We actually have an NPM module. And you can access Firebase directly from Node. People love to have their own little processes.

“But the big thing that we do is that scale piece. … It takes a lot of work to get Node beyond just one server. And you can do that if you’re LinkedIn or Walmart and have a whole tech shop to do that.”