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Data Center

MuleSoft Wants to Take Donkey Work out of Integration

Many founders of the new enterprise software generation come from the big cities and regions close to the business action. MuleSoft founder Ross Mason, by contrast, dreamed up his vision of IT Nirvana from the sleepy Mediterranean island of Malta.

“[As a foreigner] in Malta you’re either running to something or running away and I wasn’t running away,” he quips when we speak by phone. “I hadn’t done anything wrong!”

He is in fact a Brit who moved to Malta for marriage but was inspired 10 years ago to build a new company after becoming thwarted in various European consulting projects. What made this (adopted) Maltese cross was an old IT pain: the messiness and complexity in integrating diverse business IT systems.

“I created MuleSoft out of frustration and because I wanted integration to be more lightweight,” he says.

Now headquartered in San Francisco, the company is aimed at taking the (pun intended) donkey-work out of integration and it is growing rapidly at a time when many companies will be moving to new platforms, most notably, the cloud. Always big business for suppliers, integration is coming under the spotlight once again as businesses attempt to figure out how to make old systems and new systems talk to each other.

“The real challenge that we see enterprises battling with is taking [something like] a traditional enterprise database and trying to make use of it in an environment where all the new innovations are taking place out of the datacentres… in the cloud, in social networks or whatever. Where we’re different is in providing a single integration platform for companies on-premise or in the cloud but, more importantly, also in hybrid cloud/on-premise environments, which has become the ‘new normal’ for IT.”

Tibco is the company perhaps most associated with enterprise integration in client/server but Mason suggests the company has taken its eye off the ball.

“They’re wanting to monetise the user base more and more,” he says. “Tibco carved out a great name for themselves but became more interested in business analytics with [the 2007 acquisition of] Spotfire.”

Tibco has tried to address the tectonic shift to cloud in business IT adoption with the recent announcements regarding its Cloud Bus technology but Mason says Tibco and other integration veterans’ efforts are off the pace.

“Cloud Bus isn’t relevant to the enterprise right now,” he says. “IBM doesn’t have a very strong cloud integration story. Software AG says it will have something next year… They’re all a bit behind the game.”

For Mason, the bigger picture is that 30% of the global 500 have their “whole value behind their datacentre and they’re trying to remain relevant”. That will mean tapping the new ICT deployment/consumption models. Inevitably, companies will move at different speeds, he says, but some will sprint.

“Disney has said they’ll be completely out of datacentres in the next three years, the food company chains haven’t got a great datacentre story anyway so the quicker they can get into the cloud the better. [Many firms have been] living with the negative impacts of Siebel installations and Frankenstein systems and want to flush out [older, unwieldy systems].”

MukeSoft’s answer to the integration conundrum is a lightweight, visual, open source-based platform approach that has won the hearts and keyboards of over 150,000 developers. It works with blue-chip clients and is increasingly being seen as the go-to integration choice when connecting SaaS leaders like Salesforce.com, NetSuite and Workday to each other or to traditional enterprise back-ends. (MuleSoft investors include both Salesforce and SAP Ventures.)

But isn’t deploying another integration platform just an example of, to use the industry’s unlovely phrase, putting lipstick on a pig and masking underlying ugliness? And wouldn’t cloud integration standards, as advocated by the likes of World Wide Web Consortium CEO Jeff Jaffe, be a more elegant approach?

“Standards would be fantastic but the market is moving so quickly,” Mason laments. However, MuleSoft is a participant in the RAML working group that aims to define how services will communicate at the API level. And of course, the company’s own CloudHub integration platform, in use by systems integrators and consultants like Capgemini and Deloitte, could become a de facto standard, at least in some circles.

Prospective buyers have been “sniffing around” but, having raised over $80m in VC, Mason is keener on creating something bigger.

“We want to be the next category-defining company like Cisco was for networks, Microsoft was for workgroups… Facebook did the same with people and our goal in life is to make it as easy to connect [IT applications and services] as people on Facebook.”

 

Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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