Three Integration Challenges of Going Mobile

Loraine Lawson

Businesses understand that data and applications can’t stop at the firewall anymore. Ross Mason, founder and CTO of MuleSoft, calls this the “New Enterprise,” where data and services need to extend to SaaS, the cloud and mobile devices. IT Business Edge’s Loraine Lawson asks him about the unique integration challenges of this New Enterprise — and what misconceptions he thinks CIOs have about connecting out.
Lawson: I know you have both a cloud solution in CloudHub and on-premise integration solution in Mule ESB. So, where do you see the integration market headed, particularly in terms of your cloud business?
Mason: There are a few trends, including cloud, that are facing what we describe as shaping the new New Enterprise.

If you think about traditional enterprises, a lot of what’s been integrated has been on-premise. So the CIO had to think about infrastructure strategy and a data strategy from within the data center.

What we’re seeing in even the most entrenched legacy or monolithic enterprises is a growing demand and need to think about integrating outside the firewall. The drivers that are making that happen are obviously the growth is SaaS. SaaS is actually growing in both the enterprise as well as the SMB and mid-market; it’s presenting a challenge. If you look at the projections for SaaS, it’s the fastest-growing software market there’s ever been. That is creating the challenges of how do you actually connect the old and new SaaS apps together.

The other aspect of the New Enterprise is we see a lot of people now thinking about mobility strategies. They come in two forms. One is to serve existing work force; people increasingly want to work on their own devices within the workplace. That’s in its infancy but enterprises are currently trying to figure out how that’s all going to play out.

But more importantly, it’s about reaching consumers.  For example, think about the way insurance has changed over the last five years — the way insurance providers reach customers now is more on the mobile devices. It’s the same with the consumer-side tax and financial software, the same with all sorts of things. It’s not about building mobile apps; it’s about getting the enterprise data in a form that can be consumed on a mobile platform.

So the New Enterprise combines external and internal systems. When I talk about the New Enterprise, it’s a new landscape — applications and devices that need to connect. CIOs are really thinking very hard about how they control the proliferation of mobile in the work force and how they can leverage it. So from a strategic perspective, I think it’s been on the radar for a couple of years.

Lawson: Why do they want to open enterprise data to mobile?
Mason: It’s because their customers are using those platforms to engage with their “suppliers,” if you like, to use a more business term for it. There were a lot of stats over the last two holidays about how much people are shopping on their mobile devices.  That wasn’t an issue two years ago, but now big retailers need to get inventory and their shopping carts, everything, and make those available on mobile devices.

It’s not enough just to present your website, you really need to think about building for a new channel. That’s driving a lot of the integration demands that we see in our customer base.

Take Intuit, for example. The tax year is coming up and they’ve moved a lot of their capabilities to the mobile platform as well. Google announced fairly recently they’re going to go mobile for anything new that they build.

While mobility is still in its infancy in terms of really how it gets adopted across a range of industries, it’s definitely creating major waves. The first thing to think about is how do I get my data out of SAP, how do I get it out of my mainframe systems. If they needed a case for legacy modernization, mobility is really driving that case.

Lawson: Are there unique data and integration challenges about going mobile? What are the main issues you have to consider?
Mason: The challenges are three fold. One — and this is what a lot of people think about today — is how do I manage devices? How do I make sure data is not leaked, those sorts of challenges.

As soon as you get comfortable that you can actually have a mobility strategy in enterprise, then the next hurdle is how do I get data to those devices? How do you get the data out of the legacy system, and then how do you deliver to the devices? They’re two separate problems.

Most enterprises have data that’s just sitting in legacy systems and those systems don’t connect directly to devices, nor do you want to do that. The key connector technology here is actually APIs. The ability to build web services or REST-style APIs is becoming very important in the enterprise — over 40 percent of our customers that do that on our platform today. That’s the fastest-growing use case.

What’s happened is integration and API publishing have come together because you need to get data out of legacy systems and then you want to publish it to a new set of consumers. So putting the two together makes sense. We have both technologies in our platform: application integration to get the data and then the API publishing to deliver that data to other services or devices.

So, our strategy is to connect the New Enterprise, to connect on-premise and in the cloud. We provide the only unified platform for integrating anything, anywhere.

That’s one of the reasons we’re seeing so much traction in the market today. Many enterprises aren’t necessarily connecting to the cloud today but they know they’re going to need to do so in the next 18 months.

Lawson: What are some of the biggest misconceptions you encounter when talking about cloud or mobile or any of these “New Enterprise” integration issues?
Mason: There’s a lot of uncertainty about where it gets executed. Honestly, there are concerns around privacy — do I lose control of my data, where does my data reside?

Definitely CIOs want to know that they’re meeting their requirements around data security and infrastructure security. I think that’s fairly natural for any middleware product, but the cloud adds a new dimension for them, especially in Europe where you have complex issues around data jurisdiction. That can be a challenge for folks. That’s one of the reasons why cloud is more heavily adopted in the Americas than it has in Europe.

There are just so many moving pieces now. I have this diagram that I draw when I describe the New Enterprise. You have a nice neat box of legacy systems behind the firewall and that’s what you used to have to think about as a CIO. Now what’s happened with the nexus of forces in the market around growth of SaaS, the growth of the needs of mobility, and also new models of customer engagement and how we think about using social, it’s really changed the game on what the business wants to do and what the CIO needs to put his arms around and control.

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