New Mule Release Helps Enterprises Prep for Cloud

Ross Mason, MuleSoft founder and CTO, spoke to IT Business Edge’s Loraine Lawson about what enterprise customers want in terms of cloud integration and how the open source ESB company addressed these issues in its new edition for enterprises, Mule 3.1, which was released on Jan. 11. Lawson and Mason also discussed whether Java’s uncertain future has impacted Mule’s development plans going forward.


“… we’re seeing a lot more of these types of smaller workflow scenarios, where you want two or three applications all sharing information between them based on events triggered inside those applications.”

Ross Mason
Founder and CTO

Lawson: This month you released Mule 3.1 for enterprises. What’s changed since 3.0?

Mason: The whole point of Mule 3 was really to simplify what the ESB is to a broader audience, and what we’ve been finding with Mule is that we’re getting a lot more adoption outside of your typical SOA, infrastructure applications and people doing a lot more sort of point-to-point and tactical integration and departmental apps with it. So Mule 3 really gets focused on simplicity and being able to lower the bar for entry for new users.

… Cloud Connect was an absolute massive hit for us. It really sort of resonated well with users and customers and we actually spent a lot of 3.1 really doing it a [revision] on Mule Cloud Connect. So there’s a lot of new features in there for working with connectors in an even easier way.

That way you can now consume these connectors in Mule 3, they’re much easier to sort of wire into like a process orchestration, if you like, and we’ve lowered the bar for both people using them, but also we’re seeing a steady interest from partners wanting to build their own for their own platform for things like Intuit.

So Cloud Connect in 3.1 has become a real powerhouse in my mind, both in terms of the connectors supported. We’ve had Salesforce in there, we’ve completely rounded that out now. We have support for all the Amazon APIs and Web services, and we’ve rounded out Facebook and Twitter support – which, surprising actually, are very popular. I mean, I know they’re popular [on the] consumer side, but we’re seeing more people wanting to integrate with those platforms in other ways, which is pretty interesting.

Lawson: When you say that customers are using it to connect to Intuit and build their own platforms, what do you mean?

Mason: Building their own connectors. They obviously have a whole set of services on their platform and we’re working with them to build out cloud connectors for everything they do, actually. So that’s pretty interesting.

Lawson: And the people who are wanting to connect to Twitter and Facebook, are those companies moving to the cloud?

Mason: It’s an inside-out cloud strategy, where even if they’re still building their apps behind the firewall. I do expect that to change, by the way, but right now as they’re dabbling, they’re still building applications behind the firewall, but they’re using information and services outside the firewall to create a richer application. Certainly with Facebook and things like LinkedIn, they often use it to create a richer user profile for any of their HR or social-related apps internally. Then [with] Twitter, what we’re really seeing is more about just sharing links, offering topics around things that this person is interested in.

Lawson: Interesting.

Mason: The other thing that hasn’t come out yet, but we’ve been doing a lot around, [is] payment services. At Mule Cloud Connect, we got interest from various payment providers to offer payment services to make it easier for applications running on Mule to actually be merchants and provide payments.

So we have another announcement coming out around that, but the main crux of this is that Cloud Connect really opened a lot of doors and there seems to be a lot of interest in getting these services into the enterprise and usable by the enterprise. The progression of that [is] enterprise customers moving to the cloud as they get more comfortable with the cloud as a platform.

Lawson: And does Cloud Connect run in the cloud or is that something they buy and run on premise that supports their connection to the cloud?

Mason:  Right now, you can run on premise or in the cloud and actually we do have two customers that are running solely in the cloud. It’s not a mass of customers, but it’s early proof … that people are starting to think that way for us.

Lawson: And do you run it or is that something that you use, for instance, Amazon EC2?

Mason: We use Amazon, but we provide the infrastructure on top. So, that’s from the Cloud Connect side.

The other area that we’ve really invested in is the tooling around [of] Mule. So we have a lot more capabilities in Mule 3 for doing things like managing large Mule deployments. Some of our customers have up to 13,000 sites running Mule, some just have ten servers. And we’ve created tooling that allows you to deal with both low-scale and high-scale application deployments and we introduced a concept called Flow in Mule, which is like process orchestration 2.0 if you like. It goes above and beyond where I think process orchestration sort of left off, which was very Web service-focused, and now we can actually integrate any type of connection or data and model a process around it, and the tooling also now reflects that so you can manage these processes the same way you can manage Mule services.

Lawson: Can you give me a couple of examples of processes?

Mason: If you are using something like Intuit and Salesforce, typically you actually want bi-directional synchronization of data when events occur in each of those systems because Saleforce is your customer record, but Intuit is more like your ERP. Mule Flow allows you to easily trigger events from either side of those applications to make sure that when there’s a new customer acquisition, it goes into Intuit. When Intuit bills someone, then that information can be passed back to Salesforce.

It’s a common orchestration flow between two applications and we’re seeing a lot more of these types of smaller workflow scenarios, where you want two or three applications all sharing information between them based on events triggered inside those applications.

Lawson: You’re Java-based, correct?

Mason: We are.

Lawson: There are a lot of questions in the development community about the status of Java now since Oracle acquired Sun. Does that affect what you’re doing?

Mason: We’re not worried about it. It does affect our roadmap … not so much that Java is on the threat, but there’s more wide acceptance of other languages. So Mule 3.2 onwards, we’re doing more and more around support for other languages because we realize that development teams inside these organizations are getting more savvy at picking up different languages and using the right language for the application they’re building.

We definitely have demands from our user and customer base to react to that and provide better tooling for people who are using Python and Mule together or recently we’ve seen a couple of the PHP frameworks adopt Mule as well, because they’re seeing the value of having service backend.

So there’s definitely good stuff happening. I don’t think it’s a driver that Java is under threat, [it’s] more so that the general marketplace has gotten more acceptance for different languages and definitely Ruby is getting a lot of attention as well.

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