It had just turned 2 a.m. on April 18th, 2003. I was getting ready to release my first open source project, and I was about to pull the trigger on a name. I settled on MULE as I was trying to solve the hard, unrelenting work of connecting applications and data—MULE was going to take the “donkey work” out of integration. What I didn’t know was that I was choosing the stock ticker symbol for a company that would go on to solve much bigger problems for companies globally. It’s pretty cool to reflect on that now, and it has been an amazing experience getting here.
In 2003, I was trying to solve a hard technical problem. I wanted to make it less painful and more efficient for people like me and my teams to connect disparate systems. I was working for an investment bank in London, where a project to connect seven systems was going to cost 30 million euros and take 18 months. I was struck by how incredibly painful and complicated this turned out to be.
I looked at the middleware market—ostensibly the companies who could make this easier—and realized that it was highly fragmented. The lightning bolt that hit me was that all the problems of connecting systems and data could be boiled down into a distinct set of components. Every connectivity problem could be solved using a different combination of these building blocks. The old way was to build specific software offerings for every connectivity problem, whether batch, EAI, orchestration, event-driven architecture, web services, file movement, or many more. My new way was to build a common set of components that you compose in different ways to solve each of these connectivity and architectural problems on one platform.
After much complaining to my girlfriend (now my wife), she got frustrated and told me to stop talking about it and do something about it. So, I built a container, established the components, and productized them. I had two key principles in these early days of MULE:
- The software has to do what you say it does. It seems obvious, but so much software over-promises and under-delivers.
- Own the success of MULE’s users. This means you support any user as if they were your friend and then pave the way with documentation, examples or bug fixes so others can get further on their own.
This made the technology easier to consume and productized an area of the IT market that had never been properly productized before.
It is interesting and fortunate that the patterns that we established in MULE back then have been very relevant and are replicated throughout emerging trends today, like moving to the cloud. The patterns are very similar to one another. The unique way in which we’ve solved connectivity has turned out to be flexible enough and adaptable enough to work in many different situations. We call it declarative modularity. It’s a pretty simple idea that a software component should do one thing well, and expose its interface so it can be used in different ways but always provide the same result. You could argue this is just good software practice; we’ve just applied it to a large set of problems and made it fly. We’ve changed the notion of what’s possible in enterprise technology by approaching this problem differently than anyone else. And that’s very much part of our DNA as a company. We’ve had to pivot, we’ve always experimented and will continue to do so; the fundamental premise of the way we solve this significant problem continues to be our compass.
The reason connectivity is so important is that, not surprisingly, everything is becoming more connected. In this new digital era that we now live in, connectivity is the foundation of every consumer experience, business model, process, product and service; every digital innovation needs connectivity to make it viable. The more connections you make, the more value you get out of digital assets. Connectivity links your applications, data and devices with those of partners, suppliers, customers and even employees—to create a new breed of service offerings and capabilities. Connectivity is critical to new technology advances in areas like the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR). None of this works if you can’t connect to the data and assets. And given the number of applications, data sources and devices, the old way of doing this is just too heavy, costly and resource intensive.
The way in which you connect really matters. With the massive growth of cloud applications, APIs, microservices, IoT, and real-time big data, as well as new technology like AI, intelligent voice interfaces and VR/AR emerging, I’ve seen a change in the way organizations are thinking about this problem. Connectivity is critical to most (if not all) projects and no longer can central IT teams be order-takers to deliver projects to the business. The demands on IT are too high. Instead, IT is looking to deliver more of their capability “as-a-Service” to the business and then enable business users to self-serve more on their own. The modern API is at the center of this shift; it has become the de facto way to exchange value between providers and consumers.
The internet exploded thanks to HTML and browsers making it possible for anyone on the web to exchange information. I believe we are at the beginning of the next era of the web where modern APIs are making any capability available to people and machines. We’ve already seen the lighthouses in the consumer space like Amazon and Uber make the impossible possible by leveraging modern APIs, and I believe we’re going to see more innovation in this era. It’s a matter of survival.
In the next few years, I expect we’ll see many organizations make tremendous gains in speed, agility and innovation that will rival those in the consumer space, and it’s because business leaders are starting to realize that reusable, self-service connectivity is the way to get value out of all their enterprise assets. I believe it is the cornerstone of the next digital revolution and the opportunity we face today.
We believe the way for organizations to drive this transformation is through a new concept called application networks. These are networks of applications, data and devices connected with APIs to make them pluggable and to create reusable services. APIs are the building blocks used to define how data is accessed, exposed and shared across the application network. What makes this so transformational is that now a much broader community of developers or analysts can get self-serve access to data and capabilities within the organization, as well as partners externally, without being bottlenecked by IT. We are seeing strong traction with this concept in our customer base. I believe many organizations in the next few years will be delivering much more of their IT capability to the business through their application network, which will unlock the value of digital assets within organizations, change the role of IT and make businesses more agile and drive innovation.
One of our core strengths as a company that has pushed us and opened the aperture to what is possible in enterprise technology is the people. We’ve managed to pull together some of the best and brightest in this company, and I truly believe there’s nothing we can’t do. I am extraordinarily grateful to every Muley. I also want to thank our developer community, which has adopted MuleSoft so enthusiastically and tirelessly, and contributes to make it expand and evolve.
I also want to thank our customers, who have really changed the way businesses operate with technology. A great example is McDonald’s. What I love about their story is that they are striving to create a set of capabilities across the entire global franchise, a digital platform for restaurant owners and new digital channels for their consumers. This holistic, transformative way of thinking is the right way to think about evolving the modern business. And it’s exciting to be a part of that for all of our customers.
We are just getting started. Right now, this is an exciting point in our journey. We’ve created a new stage for change in the enterprise is tremendous, and it would be a shame to not push that as far as possible. As for me, it’s really rewarding to say we are changing the way businesses operate to drive competitive outcomes. With the support of our team, our customers, our developers, and our partners, we believe the possibilities are endless. And that’s what makes me excited and proud to be a Muley.