What Is MuleSoft? A Simplified Look at the Much-Hyped Integration Platform

April 30, 2019 Halie Vining

Like much of the tech world, the integration industry is chock-full of buzzwords: APIs, microservices, mashups, and so on. Combine all this jargon with the hype of a $6.5 billion acquisition and answering “what is MuleSoft” gets a little complicated. But with tech stacks growing and the need for integration increasing, MuleSoft could be the key to helping your team bridge data gaps and transform IT into an innovation powerhouse. 
Let’s dig through the mountain of hype and buzzwords to get to the meat of MuleSoft: What it is, and why it could be the answer to your connectivity challenges. 
What is MuleSoft? 
OK, I'm not entirely done with buzzwords just yet. To understand MuleSoft, you must first understand middleware and iPaaS

  • Middleware: MuleSoft defines middleware as the “layer between two systems that makes it easy for the two to communicate... making seamless connectivity possible without requiring the two applications to communicate directly.” As tech stacks grow and data is stretched across legacy systems and SaaS, integration becomes incredibly complex. Middleware simplifies integration by providing a centralized (or “middle”) platform where all data can be pushed to and pulled from. 
  • iPaaS: iPaaS, or integration platform as a service, takes middleware a step further by centralizing data and integration points in the cloud. MuleSoft defines iPaaS as “a platform for building and deploying integrations within the cloud and between the cloud and enterprise. With iPaaS, users can develop integration flows that connect applications residing in the cloud or on-premises and then deploy them without installing or managing any hardware or middleware.” 

So is MuleSoft a middleware or iPaaS solution? It’s both. The Mule Enterprise Service Bus is a middleware solution and with the power of CloudHub, MuleSoft becomes an iPaaS solution. This, combined with MuleSoft’s Java-based framework, makes the Anypoint Platform not only incredibly flexible but also highly scalable – one of the key reasons the company has been able to grow so quickly. 
The next time someone asks, “What’s MuleSoft?”, you’ve got the perfect response: “It’s a Java-based middleware and iPaaS solution that enables flexible and scalable integration.” 
I guess that still sounds a little buzzwordy, huh? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Let’s take a look at why companies are turning to MuleSoft to solve their integration needs. 
API-led connectivity
Integration strategy is quickly being transformed by API-led connectivity. Point-to-point system integration isn’t scalable in a world where the demands of IT are continually growing. With an API-led approach, companies can reuse APIs and focus on connecting and exposing data and assets rather than creating singular integrations. With MuleSoft, companies can leverage custom reusable APIs and access thousands of out-of-the-box APIs that MuleSoft builds and maintains. Ultimately, API-led connectivity creates a scalable integration model for maintaining APIs and enabling data access across the business – so your teams can innovate faster. 
More than a data warehouse
The MuleSoft Anypoint Platform is much more than a platform that hosts data and APIs. Anypoint enables integration through features like Flow Designer and Anypoint Security. At a glance, here’s everything the platform provides: 

  • API Design Center: Design APIs, map data, test, and debug in a collaborative interface. 
  • Anypoint Management Center: Manage APIs and users, assess traffic, monitor SLAs, and troubleshoot flows from a single interface. 
  • Mule Runtime Engine: Connect data from legacy systems, SaaS, custom apps, and APIs in a single runtime engine. 
  • Anypoint Security: Protect your application network with secure perimeters and pre-built security standards. 
  • Anypoint Exchange: Access thousands of APIs, templates, and connectors.  

Proven industry leadership 
I’m a bit of an IT nerd, so the theoretical discussions around iPaaS and API-led connectivity really pull me in. But what’s even more impressive are the metrics backing up MuleSoft’s talk. They're not just painting a picture of better, faster integration. They’re delivering it. They boast results like: 

  • 3X faster delivery 
  • 70% higher productivity for app dev teams 
  • 94% customer satisfaction 

Gartner magic quadrant api management leaders April 2018

 And despite being less than six years into their existence, they’re already leading the API management market, according to Gartner. MuleSoft really shines in its thought leadership. While they sell a platform, they publish a massive amount of help content about general integration strategy. Their leadership in integration strategy and design has built an incredible following and buy-in. The integration market views MuleSoft as a category definer – a company truly redefining what’s possible through applications networks. Ultimately, the market believes them when they say, “Connect anything. Change everything.” 
Is MuleSoft the right fit for you? 
While MuleSoft is winning big in integration right now, we know it’s not the only option on the market. It’s a big investment, so deciding if it’s the right fit is a critical decision. MuleSoft is decidedly a great hybrid integration platform (HIP). With its middleware and iPaaS flexibility, .NET connectivity, data gateway APIs for legacy systems, and extensive support of SaaS APIs, it’s designed to support complex, hybrid integration frameworks. And beyond complex integration needs, MuleSoft is particularly strong in solving these business challenges: 

  • Providing connected, seamless customer and employee experiences 
  • Building personalized, modern mobile experiences 
  • Migrating from legacy systems to the cloud (or connecting new cloud tech and legacy systems) 
  • Improving operational efficiencies by connecting data and fragmented IT systems 
  • Reducing product launch lifecycles 

Remember: Integration is complex. You don’t have to go it alone. Appirio’s Integration Practice has more than 170 certified consultants who’ve built some of the most ambitious applications networks in the world -- leveraging MuleSoft and other integration platforms. And most of those projects start, first, by deciding which platform is right for the customer. 

If you’re looking for guidance in defining your integration strategy and choosing a platform, get in touch with us today. We’ve got the expertise to get your team delivering connectivity faster! 

About the Author

Halie Vining

Halie leads the Go-to-Market strategy for Salesforce Services at Appirio. She began her career in Consulting, focusing first on enterprise-level SEO and content strategy and later on UX and product management. She's worked with brands like Rackspace, HP, Intel, and Airstream to use UX strategy to drive marketing and sales success. When she's not geeking out on digital strategy, you'll find her cozied up with a book, a beer, and her two labradors, Watson and Wyeth.

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