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5/16/2012
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Mulesoft's Cure To SaaS Integration Headaches

Mule iON SaaS edition provides tools, workflow to relieve the pain of trying to integrate software-as-a-service applications.

Connecting applications from different software-as-a-service suppliers (SaaS) is typically a major headache. Salesforce.com built a platform and ecosystem around its CRM applications to overcome the pain. Tuesday, MuleSoft announced Mule iON SaaS edition, which it says spells relief for integrating non-Salesforce.com SaaS applications.

The number of SaaS vendors is rapidly escalating, MuleSoft CTO Ross Mason noted. Gartner predicts that 35% of enterprises will be using SaaS in one form or another by 2016, resulting in a $140 billion market by 2020.

"The biggest hindrance to SaaS providers is the lack of integration with other applications," he said. If the integration could be provided through an intermediary in the cloud, the SaaS application could be quickly connected to other applications, allowing the network effect to increase the value of many SaaS applications.

The iON SaaS system allows a SaaS supplier to enable a customer to map out which other applications it would like to connect to, then the underlying system does the rest. The customer needs to identify its application and draw a line from it on a form to its target application, Mason said. MuleSoft gives the SaaS vendor the workflow and presentation form to accomplish this, but the vendor may label it as part of its own site.

[ How much can cloud change time to market? Read DreamWorks Turns To Cloud To Speed Production. ]

MuleSoft now offers SaaS vendors a software development kit (SDK) that eases the difficulty of producing a connector for the system. Attempts to generalize connectors in the cloud have already met with some success. Dell acquired Boomi and offers its cloud-based integration service. SnapLogic was a pioneer in the field, with Gaurav Dhillon as CEO, a former CEO of Informatica. And Informatica itself says 1,500 companies use the integration connectors in its Informatica Cloud--its renamed OnDemand Division that it started in 2006.

Despite the more experienced competition, Mason is undeterred. He thinks the growing customer base of the open source Mule enterprise service bus is ready to follow MuleSoft into the cloud. And the version of the iON integration cloud announced Tuesday is specifically geared to the needs of the growing ranks of SaaS providers.

The connections are actually executed on MuleSoft-run servers in Amazon Web Services EC2, but to the SaaS customer, they appear to be another service from its SaaS provider. MuleSoft is providing a workflow framework and all the needed connectivity for the SaaS vendor to use. The SaaS vendor signs up a customer, who agrees to pay an extra 10% of the regular subscription for the integration service.

The customer can then use a self-service process to initiate connections that make use of the MuleSoft connection servers. Users don't need to be programmers or skilled system administrators. They only need to draw lines with a cursor between the applications they're using to the ones on the list with which they'd like to connect.

A preliminary version of the system, launched last fall, was aimed at developers. The SaaS edition's SDK helps SaaS vendors or system integration partners produce connectors for their own SaaS applications. If Mason is right, that will quickly expand the library of connectors on the site, with many of the latest SaaS suppliers using it to extend their reach.

Mason cited one of them, PeopleMatter, in announcing MuleSoft's cloud connector service. Information collected in the PeopleMatter application as part of the employee hiring process can be transferred into the ADP online payroll system instead of requiring re-entry, he said.

"We chose Mule iON to help us eliminate the pain of custom integration, letting us focus on our core business," said Nate DaPore, president and CEO of PeopleMatter, in the announcement. If SaaS applications grow at the rate predicted by Gartner, then the ability to easily connect SaaS applications will be an increasingly important part of the enterprise approach to adopting such online software. And the connection service best situated to serve a SaaS' needs may outpace its competitors.

The service launches with a library of about 100 connectors, able to tie into Oracle E-Business Suite, NetSuite, Intuit, SugarCRM, "all the majors," Mason said.

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