You may have noticed that we announced a partnership with Zuora, the company behind the leading SaaS subscription billing service (often touted as the Salesforce of billing). This is no ordinary announcement. We are truly excited about what this means for the future of integration.
SaaS is changing the application landscape, offering better applications at a lower cost through cloud delivery. The benefits of SaaS have been touted many times, but one of the major hurdles to SaaS adoption is integration (which I elaborated on here ).
The hurdle of SaaS integration can be overcome by cloud-based application integration, but solutions to date have come from the data integration space. MuleSoft CloudHub changes that. The CloudHub platform is the only cloud application integration platform that enables real-time integration between applications. The partnership with Zuora hints at new possibilities.
Hollis Tibbetts at ebizQ, who recently wrote about the difference between Application vs. Data Integration and also blogged about our Zuora partnership announcement, gets this better than most, saying:
“The idea of creating pre-packaged integration modules is not new. CrossWorlds (now part of IBM) and Active Software (acquired by webMethods – subsequently acquired by SoftwareAG) have both attempted this back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s (and didn’t have much success getting them to work).
What makes MuleSoft’s iApps approach different is that they’re partnering with best-of-breed vendors such as Zuora to create the pre-packaged integrations. This is a strategy that is far superior and is likely to be successful.”
With Zuora we announced 3 iApps (integration Applications) that connect their subscription billing service to the outside world:
- Zuora REST Store iApp – a pre-built REST service connector and pre-built common composite services (e.g., new subscription, upgrade, downgrade); integrating e-commerce websites with Zuora can now be done in days vs. weeks
- Zuora iApp for Tax – integrates Zuora with corporate tax applications, including Avalara, Billsoft, and others, dramatically streamlining the process of applying taxes in the subscription invoicing process
- Zuora iApp for Accounting – integrates Zuora with corporate accounting systems, both on-premise and in the cloud (e.g. Workday, Intacct, Netsuite, & Quickbooks Online)
These iApps represent the holy grail of pre-packaged integration. They each embody a common integration process, but allow for changes in connectivity (i.e. accounting systems such as Intacct, Netsuite or Quickbooks) and changes in data mappings without changing the actual iApp process. An iApp is an application, not a bunch of glue-code. That means it can be managed like an application complete with visibility, control and error handling. Most importantly, an iApp is repeatable; most Zuora customers will want one or more of these iApps.
- SaaS applications are data silos; they need a way to get data in and out. That is why almost all SaaS offerings have a SOAP API, REST API or possibly FTP integration. This is very different from legacy applications that often didn’t have an open or standard interface.
- SaaS customers all use the same version of the application; no more Frankenstein Siebel implementations. Where a SaaS application needs to be extended (such as Salesforce), the API allows those customizations to be performed and discovered in a common way.
- The nature of SaaS applications creates many more specialized applications to perform specific business or industry vertical tasks. Rather than customizing a single ERP platform, the different applications are now available individually, but the consumer needs them to be integrated.
The last point is critical because it is dramatically changing the IT landscape and inevitably fragmenting the application space. Our partnership with Zuora is proof that pre-packaged, cloud integration is now possible and the benefits are clear. For Zuora, they add even more value by making their products work with the other applications that their customers use. The customer doesn’t have to think about integration. It now comes as part of the offering with no need to bring in an SI at additional cost. As for MuleSoft, we see endless ways to make integration seamless and affordable with the CloudHub platform and iApps. This is the future of integration.