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Salesforce's MuleSoft acquisition shows API management appeal

Salesforce's blockbuster deal for MuleSoft illustrates the industry's persistent appetite for API management and integration to connect apps and data.

Salesforce's MuleSoft acquisition reflects an ongoing desire of major software vendors: to give their products a kick in the API.

Salesforce's $6.5 billion acquisition of MuleSoft will power its new Salesforce Integration Cloud and enable enterprises to tap into customer data regardless of where it resides and further personalize their interactions with customers. MuleSoft sells integration technologies that connect applications across any cloud and on-premises environment.

Independent API management software vendors have been acquired with great frequency in the past few years, as major software vendors recognize the need to add integration competency to their product lines. Salesforce joins the ranks of acquirers, which include Red Hat (3scale), Oracle (Apiary), Rogue Wave (Akana), and Google (Apigee), among others. Indeed, MuleSoft was one of the few extant market-leading standalone API management vendors.

Today, most businesses use software as the primary way to connect with customers and third-party partners and suppliers. They expect their software platform vendors to provide integration capabilities that enable both external and internal connectivity and interaction. Likewise, businesses must ensure their APIs are deployable across multiple compute environments, including cloud, on premises, mobile and the internet of things, among others. With its MuleSoft acquisition, Salesforce can deliver API-based integration capabilities and a standardized way to design, govern, deliver and manage their APIs.

MuleSoft's API management journey

MuleSoft delivers connectivity via its API platform, and is considered a leader in hybrid integration, integration platform as a service and API management. Formerly known as MuleSource, the company launched in 2006 -- the heyday of Java and service-oriented architecture.

[It's] a natural move to provide Salesforce with a leading platform offering the latest in cloud-native development methods for speed of innovation, particularly microservices architecture.
Rhett Dillinghamsenior analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy

The company's initial flagship product, Mule ESB, is based on Mule, a Java-based enterprise service bus. An ESB is an integration platform that enables developers to connect applications quickly and easily in a buslike architecture. MuleSoft evolved into a hybrid integration platform, with both data and application integration, to integrate the on- and off-premises resources of the distributed enterprise.

MuleSoft's current flagship product, Anypoint, combines the Mule ESB with some cloud technology, connectors and API technologies into a hybrid integration platform that enables organizations to easily build and rapidly scale an application network of apps, data and devices through APIs and integrations, according to the company.

Salesforce and MuleSoft have been partners for many years and know each other well, said MuleSoft CEO Greg Schott, who will continue to lead the rebranded "MuleSoft, a Salesforce company" from its San Francisco headquarters.

Salesforce's SaaS platform imperative

Rhett Dillingham, Moor Insights and StrategyRhett Dillingham

Past experiences of vendors such as Oracle, IBM, and SAP indicate stitched-together acquisitions can translate into integration work for customers and partners. Nevertheless, these capabilities are critical as organizations continue along the path to digital transformation.

Salesforce must strategically invest to offer a platform for developers to integrate enterprise applications with its SaaS offerings, said Rhett Dillingham, senior analyst for cloud services at Moor Insights & Strategy in Austin, Texas.

"[It's] a natural move to provide Salesforce with a leading platform offering the latest in cloud-native development methods for speed of innovation, particularly microservices architecture," he said.

Salesforce now has a purpose-built product to help with integration, movement to the cloud, and the management of SaaS applications, added Theresa Lanowitz, CEO of Voke, an analyst firm in Minden, Nev. "The MuleSoft acquisition makes it easier and more attractive for developers to work on in the Salesforce cloud for legacy applications and new applications," she said.

Feature writer Jan Stafford contributed to this story.

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