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As MuleSoft expands into new markets, extends its feature set, and creates multipliers with Salesforce, including the recent product releases from our first-ever Transform event, one can be forgiven for feeling a little disoriented as to where all these efforts fit in the overall integration market. I feel this way at times and, when I do, my first action is to locate the North Star for the business. For MuleSoft, that North Star is composability, or the composable enterprise. 

Composability and the application network

The composable enterprise is a destination where businesses are modular. This modularity is in the form of components, some pre-built and others created from scratch, that can be rapidly assembled to form new customer experiences and new businesses. This notion of a composable enterprise is something that the industry has also come to recognize. Darly Plummer, Distinguished VP Analyst, during the opening keynote at virtual Gartner Symposium IT/Xpo® noted that “Composable business is a natural acceleration of the digital business that you live every day. It allows us to deliver the resilience and agility that these interesting times demand.”

All the infrastructure and services needed to build and run the composable enterprise are collectively called an application network. One such service is the application network graph. The application network graph is a directory service where we store descriptions of all components such that they may be discovered and used by builders and operators in the composable enterprise. The application network provides authoring tools for both IT developers and business-level users to create and share their components. It also includes services that secure and monitor components as they are published into the network 

When I explain our North Star – the composable enterprise – to others, the usual response I get is, “‘I am sold on the composable enterprise and application networks – but how do we get there?” To explain, it helps to understand the four enablers for innovation that underpin the composable enterprise. These are integration, universal API management, automation, and API ecosystems. Let’s explore each one.

4 keys to accelerate and scale innovation for a composable enterprise  

Image caption: This image shows the four enablers of composability.

1. Integration: Integrating all of your apps and data 

Integration is our raw material. It’s fundamental to everything we do at MuleSoft. New technologies may come and go but the need to connect pieces of information together will never go away. When we say integration we mean any integration pattern – from parsing a flat-file right through to picking a message out of a real-time stream. MuleSoft enables any integration pattern to be packaged up as a component

MuleSoft has already pre-built hundreds of components to help accelerate an enterprise’s journey to composability. We are continually adding new components. To better support asynchronous messaging patterns, we recently added support for event-driven APIs via the AsyncAPI spec. We also added support for EDIFACT, an EDI protocol designed in the ’80s to support legacy use-cases. Customers take these components and combine them with their own to create new components.

These components are supported through a common development lifecycle and management framework. Why? Because integration is one discipline where best-of-breed does not work. Operating multiple integration technologies will lead an enterprise to end up “integrating the integrations.” This creates greater complexity than the original problem teams were trying to initially solve for and is the reason we see so many projects reverting to point-to-point integration. Analysts might break integration up into sub-markets like iPaaS and API management but these are all integration patterns that should be supported through standardized integration components created and run on your application network.

2. Universal API management: Creating, managing, securing, and governing any API from anywhere

Today APIs are the dominant integration pattern and this has created a standardized framework for us to exchange information. Most enterprises have some APIs on Azure, some on AWS, and others elsewhere. These enterprises lack visibility as information flows across these platforms and they are not able to control and coordinate these disparate APIs. This is one of the problems MuleSoft sets out to solve with the recent universal API management announcement. MuleSoft defines universal API management as the ability to open the scope of full lifecycle management capabilities to APIs built anywhere, deployed anywhere. 

This means that APIs under construction, regardless of the design environment, will all be centrally cataloged directly from a developer’s CI/CD pipeline. As these APIs move through test and into production they can be described and published to the application network graph for self-service consumption by the community of API builders. The relationships and dependencies between APIs and the specific data flowing through them can be mapped. This helps with change management, runtime fault diagnosis, and troubleshooting. Administrators have full visibility on the performance and security. Repairs can be managed by automated artificial intelligence services. This is our vision for universal API management.   

3. Automation: Automating mission-critical business processes

As organizations become more federated and increasingly leverage best-of-breed SaaS applications, there is a requirement for integration to span multiple data silos. IT is often consumed with the largest and most strategic of these integration projects and the remaining long-tail of projects is left to the line of business (LOB) to tackle. To increase project output, we need to empower the LOB with the ability to access data without dependence on the specialized skills of central IT.

MuleSoft Composer enables LOB teams and less-technical users to independently create integration applications from components created by central IT. We will also add Robotic Process Automation (RPA) capability from our Servicetrace acquisition to make it easier for builders to create more feature-rich components. This combination of citizen-friendly, low-code tools with one-click access to pre-built integration and RPA automation flows is part of the emerging market called hyperautomation. Hyperautomation has the potential to increase enterprise productivity through the activation of a larger community of builders who will help unlock the value of siloed data assets. 

4. Ecosystems: Cultivating open ecosystems for customers, partners, and employees 

Not only will our internal productivity be enhanced, but we can also extend these application network services to our customers and partners. This has the potential to create a wave of innovation in our business ecosystems.

In business ecosystems, value exchanges occur between participants. Sellers and buyers exchange value for goods and services exchanged. Additionally, business partners such as finance and logistics providers add and extract value along the value chain. An application network is a global construct of interconnected services that facilitates the exchange of business value. The activity this network generates is referred to as the API economy.  At MuleSoft we are working hard to supply you with the tools and the mindset to participate in this API economy.

What sets MuleSoft apart from others in the integration market is that we ask organizations to think of integration strategically. This means building integration with consumers in mind by making components easy to reuse. Why? By focusing on consumption in the production phase of integration assets, we better facilitate exchanges of business value. Imagine the multiplier that is created by an IT developer building an API that will not only meet the needs of their project but will also deliver value to potentially thousands of citizen developers, both internal and external. 

Through engagement tools such as API portals and development tools such as Composer, an enterprise provides its partners with opportunities to create value through new customer segments, new revenue streams, and access to raw materials. This creates healthy ecosystems in a thriving API economy. 

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Staying the course with MuleSoft Composer

One of our goals at MuleSoft is to equip customers with the right tools on their journeys to becoming composable enterprises. The necessary equipment is an application network whose reusable services allow participation and value creation in the API economy. Using application networks, businesses can dynamically compose their systems within the context of their ecosystems to handle new business conditions. Application networks provide standardized integration components, the ability to universally manage APIs to control information flow and nurture an empowered community of builders that automate workflows to create value from partner ecosystems

Last but not least it is important to bring the right mindset. One needs to believe in the destination of the composable enterprise and be committed to the knowledge that we can accelerate our arrival every time we create another reusable component.

To read more about the composable enterprise download our white paper.