You need to develop an app. Your app needs to have support for all the important backend services. Analytics, messaging, storage, and user authentication. You’ve heard of AWS’ Amplify, and Google’s Firebase, but you don’t know the important differences between them. In this article we will compare Firebase vs. AWS and help you make the best decision for your app and your team.
At A Glance
Choosing Amplify or Firebase boils down to whether you would benefit more from simplicity, or flexibility.
If your team is big, your app’s backend infrastructure is complex, or your company already uses other pieces of AWS’ infrastructure, Amplify is better for you.
If your team is smaller, your app is simpler, and you are not currently committed to one cloud services ecosystem, Firebase is probably the better choice.
Amplify is one of over two-hundred cloud services available on AWS. It is designed to integrate with whatever AWS services you need for your app, which makes it flexible. But that also makes it more difficult and slower to learn.
Firebase is designed to be mostly independent from the rest of Google’s Cloud ecosystem. This makes Firebase simpler to learn at the expense of enterprise-scale flexibility.
Let’s discuss in more detail the similarities and differences that influence your decision of Firebase vs. AWS.
Traditional vs. Serverless App Backends
Both Amplify and Firebase serve the role of “Backend as a Service”. That is, they allow you to use their cloud infrastructure to handle things like authentication and analytics. This contrasts with the traditional model employed by many companies today.
In a traditional environment, your backend developers are responsible for ensuring you have functional and secure authentication, data storage, messaging, analytics, and more. And your IT operations team is responsible for ensuring it works with your existing infrastructure. This often leads to headaches and outages, which are bad for business.
With Firebase or Amplify, things are much simpler. With only a few lines of code, you can plug Firebase Auth or AWS Cognito right into your app. This also works for other services like messaging, storage, and analytics. Oh, and you only pay for what you use, which makes scaling easy.
But if you’re already considering Firebase vs. AWS, you have probably already decided to use a serverless model for your app.
So what are the important differences between these platforms, and which is right for you?
Infrastructure vs. Backend as a Service
AWS is an Infrastructure as a Service company. And AWS Amplify is one of Amazon’s huge library of web infrastructure services. Being part of a huge ecosystem, Amplify offers nice integration with the rest of your AWS infrastructure. However, that means a more difficult learning curve for new users trying to build with AWS Amplify.
On the other hand, Firebase is more narrowly-scoped. While you can integrate Firebase apps with other Google Cloud Platform offerings, it is not the assumed use-case for Firebase. This makes Firebase’s learning curve simpler for beginners.
Both Google Firebase and AWS Amplify are cloud-hosted platforms that offer suites of tools for mobile and web app development. Both platforms offer a few core pieces of app backend functionality:
Both Firebase and Amplify offer powerful suites of analytics tracking tools from crash reports to A/B testing. Google built “Google Analytics for Firebase” from the ground up to simplify and streamline app analytics. On the other hand, AWS Amplify hooks into Amazon Kinesis for its main analytics engine. While Kinesis is a strong data analytics engine, Google Analytics is the gold standard for free web analytics. Further, you can get the best of both worlds by integrating Google Analytics into Amazon Kinesis.
Both platforms provide services for secure user authentication within your app. You can hook into existing identity providers such as Facebook and Apple, or use your own user identity provider. The biggest differences between the platforms lie in the details of their integrations with federated identity providers, where Firebase is easier to use and maintain. Read more about Firebase Auth and Amazon Cognito for examples of implementation.
Rather than host user data on your own servers, you can offload that responsibility to Google or Amazon with their respective object storage platforms. While Google’s Cloud Storage is a fast and powerful option, Amazon’s S3 handles large uploads, object versioning, and metadata tagging more effectively.
Both platforms offer flexible notification toolsets for web and mobile applications. Once again, Google’s solution has been built specifically for a Backend as a Service use-case in the form of Firebase Cloud Messaging, while AWS uses Pinpoint for the marketing design aspects and Simple Notification Service (SNS) for pushing messages to users. This compartmentalization on AWS’ part better facilitates users looking to integrate with an existing AWS infrastructure environment, and would likely add needless complexity to a simpler project.
If you need elastic web application hosting, both platforms offer globalized, distributed cloud networks for frameworks such as React and Angular (among others).
Both Google Firebase and AWS Amplify help you to focus your development time on building your app by providing feature-rich toolsets which simplify the process of adding important, but mundane backend integrations.
Each platform offers a free tier and a “pay as you go” plan.
On Firebase’s part, many services are completely free. Analytics, messaging, and predictions, and more are completely free. And on the Blaze plan, you only pay beyond what you would get for free with the free tier. For compute and storage commodities, Firebase uses Google Cloud Pricing. If you already have a good idea of what your app’s needs are (or will be), you can use their interactive pricing calculator.
For AWS Amplify, you pay based on how much of the underlying other AWS services you use. While Amazon provides a couple example cost estimates on their Amplify pricing page, you will likely be better served by their general AWS Pricing Calculator.
Generally speaking, AWS offers compute and storage resources for anywhere between “a little” and “a lot” cheaper, with a few niche exceptions.
How are Firebase and AWS different?
Firebase was originally founded independently in 2011, and bought by Google in 2014.
AWS’ Amplify was launched in late 2017. Despite being formally launched 6 years later, AWS Amplify is considered the senior of the two platforms.
Some experts simplify the comparison to this: AWS Amplify is comprehensive because it cleanly integrates with the rest of AWS’ offerings, while Firebase is streamlined, prioritizing ease of use over breadth of services.
Let’s look at these in more detail.
Pros and Cons of AWS Amplify
- Part of a large ecosystem. AWS Amplify is one of AWS’ 200+ cloud services. If your team is already using some of AWS’ services, adding Amplify to the list is a no-brainer. Amplify takes advantage of a bunch of Amazon’s other services to provide functionality, as detailed earlier. And reducing the list of service providers you rely on also reduces the number of potential points of failure. This also allows Amplify to take advantage of the 15 years of development that has gone into the whole AWS ecosystem.
- Backed by AWS Support. Amazon has a glowing reputation for customer support and AWS Amplify is no exception. Further, AWS’ Free Usage Tier provides generous allotments of service (such as 50,000 monthly active users with AWS Cognito) for no cost.
- Built on Open-Source. The core Amplify framework was developed by AWS with an open-source codebase, which improves compatibility with other cloud service providers.
- A Complex System. With so wide an array of tools built over a 15-year period, the sheer volume of information available on AWS makes it less approachable than a younger, more streamlined option.
Pros and Cons of Firebase
- A More Agile Platform. As Firebase is less geared toward the enterprise and Big Business sector, Google is able to offer more unique services, and more recent technology.
- Built on Google’s Analytics Expertise. Using Google’s analytics engine and associated tools, you can gain insights into user behavior and optimize your in-app marketing more easily with Firebase.
- More Managed. Firebase is more isolated from the rest of the Google Cloud Platform ecosystem than its AWS counterpart. This could be a pro or con, depending on whether you prefer simplicity or control.
- Less Portable. While some components of the Firebase toolset (such as the SDKs) are open-source, much of the ecosystem is proprietary, and therefore more difficult to transfer to another platform should the need arise in the future.
Both AWS Amplify and Google Firebase provide methods for handling backend in the cloud. They allow you to focus your resources on developing your app. But where AWS is an ecosystem geared toward Infrastructure as a Service, Firebase is more focused on Backend as a Service.
If your use-case would benefit from integrations with AWS infrastructure, such as an existing Lambda pipeline, you will appreciate their breadth of services. Head to the AWS Amplify product page to get started.
If you don’t have any existing cloud infrastructure, Firebase’s simplicity and advanced technologies may be more compelling. Head to the Firebase product page to get started.