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MuleSoft SaaS: Going beyond the application suite

article image Will Bosma

Organisations view large-scale enterprise applications as a means to gain competitive advantage. They believe these applications are the vehicles to increase information and process flows, making the business more efficient, reducing the cost of doing business, and thereby, enhancing their competitive advantage.

This demand for increased information flows has led to a proliferation of enterprise applications in the market from major players such as SAP, Siebel and Oracle. These applications have evolved into application suites, with the vendors aiming to become a one-stop shop for every need.

While powerful, these suites also required huge amounts of manpower and resources to be customised to suit the needs of a particular business. The upfront licensing fee quickly became a small proportion of the overall cost of the implementation project.

The entry of the cloud, however, has changed everything. The competitive advantage today belongs to companies that find newer efficiencies through tightly integrated SaaS (Software as a Service) applications. This is the idea that inspired the foundation of MuleSoft, which is now the most widely used integration platform for connecting SaaS and enterprise applications, both in the cloud and on-premise.

SaaS: disintegrating the application suite

The fastest-growing software market ever seen, the SaaS segment will hit $US125 billion in global revenue by 2020, according to Forrester estimates. SaaS’ appeal comes from its attractive economics and frictionless deployment, with immeasurable impact on enterprise operations.

Considered as something that completely disrupts acquisition and maintenance models for enterprise applications, SaaS offers fast implementation with little to no need for customisation. SaaS applications are managed by the vendor in accordance with a Service Level Agreement (SLA), eliminating the costs of maintaining hardware and software in a conventional data centre as well as the cyclical upgrade burden. Given the thousands of customers that battle-test the platforms every day, SaaS applications also tend to be more robust.

SaaS offerings are usually targeted at specific business problems, disintegrating the traditional enterprise stack and allowing enterprise customers to pick and choose and subscribe to best-of-breed point solutions for CRM, ERP, marketing automation, talent management, expense management and many more instead of entire application suites.

Traditionally, integration has been the pain point for getting siloed applications to work together. With SaaS, this pain can be amplified since there are potentially many more applications to integrate.

APIs and the integration challenge

The advent of APIs for SaaS has revolutionised the way organisations can connect applications together and create new business models. APIs are used by companies to pick and choose individual SaaS applications to run their business and connect them together.

However, even with APIs, each application is still different, which creates a challenge in finding a bridge to get the applications working together. Typically, integration needs to synchronise information between two or more applications, providing data transformation, security, reliability, visibility and error handling. Ideally this all happens in real-time so that applications don’t get out of sync and users are always working with the most up-to-date information.

Additionally, most organisations will have on-premise applications but want to adopt SaaS for specific areas. To realise the benefits of SaaS without disrupting existing IT infrastructure calls for a new type of integration approach: one that enables connectivity on-premise, or in the cloud for SaaS and traditional on-premise applications.

Securing a competitive advantage

SaaS levels the playing field, theoretically giving all companies access to the same applications and tools. The 'atomisation' of enterprise applications means companies can pick and choose the best applications for their needs rather than settling for ‘good enough’ application suites as before. Enterprises that figure out how to make SaaS part of their application landscape will be best able to compete.

For this to be possible companies need an integration platform that provides connectivity for all their applications, be they SaaS applications such as Salesforce.com, NetSuite, or Workday, or on-premise applications such as SAP, Microsoft and Oracle.

The connections between installed applications need to be working silently in the background, with analytical visibility required for the information running through these applications to help tune the business and discover new insights.

In conclusion, a company’s competitive advantage is no longer in the applications they use but the platform they choose to connect them.

By Will Bosma, MuleSoft

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