Integrating the business, at the underlying IT level, is a major challenge. Companies have been struggling with the problem for years, while vendors have delivered ever more complex and sophisticated software to address the issues. The driving forces for integration are, in many cases, overpowering – more efficient, streamlined processes, faster execution and reaction to market changes, improved leverage of existing IT investments and assets, a reduced IT cost base built on shared services, all contributing to mitigation of business risk. But the market is flooded with approaches and products, such as service-oriented architecture (SOA), event-driven architecture (EDA), message brokers and enterprise service buses, and it becomes increasingly difficult to choose which approach to take.
Over the last few years, a new paradigm has emerged in the software market, based on the concept of products that are community-based and available in source form at no cost – the open source software (OSS) movement. While many people would immediately relate OSS to offerings such as Mozilla’s Firefox web browser, or the Linux operating system, the OSS effect is now making itself felt in the integration marketplace.
The appeal of OSS is both obvious and subtle. At the obvious level, not having to pay for software seems a good deal, financially at least. Of course, most people realize that if the software is going to be used in any serious fashion, support will be required, which will require investment, but the overall supported license cost is still likely to be much less than going with a commercial software vendor’s solution. However, at the more subtle level, OSS projects tend to work in terms of frameworks, where the basic skeleton is implemented together with plug-ins to add necessary functions. This incremental model for investment is attractive from a risk perspective, ensuring that claimed benefits can be validated as each stage of investment is put in place. The procurement process is also simplified, meaning new functions can be tried out without additional investment, at least initially.
The Mule OSS project has established itself in the integration space, already being used in production across a range of companies spanning all industries, with companies like Voca and Bull SAS claimed as users. MuleSource is the power behind the Mule project, owning the rights to the open source software and also offering commercial support contracts and services. MuleSource is the company making Mule viable as a production technology.
This paper provides an independent assessment of the MuleSource approach to integration. It takes a look at both the Mule product itself, and the additional features offered by MuleSource, assessing them against the backdrop of service-oriented architecture (SOA) and integration needs. The bottom line is that the MuleSource solution can offer an attractive option depending on the specific needs of the project. Mule is designed with Java-based programmers in mind, as opposed to business analysts, and within this community it will find traction. But this does not mean Mule is just an IT toy—with the backing of MuleSource, it is quite capable of supporting production operations too, although naturally as a relatively young product it still has scope for improvement.