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MuleSource Enters Hosted Data Integration Biz

MuleSource has taken initial steps into the software-as-a-service (SaaS) business with the beta launch of MuleOnDemand, a new subscription-based hosted data integration service.

The SaaS venture is a new one for MuleSource, which started its business in October of last year, offering an open source enterprise service bus (ESB) solution. The company has its roots in the open source Mule project, which was initiated in 2003.

As part of its SaaS effort, MuleSource has established a partnership with OpSource, a SaaS hosting service for software companies. OpSource will host the MuleOnDemand offering. In addition, OpSource has agreed to use MuleSource's ESB solution as its "integration-as-a-service platform of choice," according to an announcement issued by the companies.

MuleSource can now help companies by establishing service links either in the Internet cloud or behind the firewall. Companies have the option to use the Mule Gateway server, typically installed on the customer's premises to create loosely coupled services, or they can select the MuleOnDemand hosted service.

Having both capabilities just extends the notion of a service-oriented architecture (SOA), which is all about breaking down silos, according to Dave Rosenberg, MuleSource's CEO. It's not a big philosophical change in direction for MuleSource, which coined the term "Integration-as-a-Service" to describe its MuleOnDemand offering.

"The ESB is just a topology for how you'd deploy a product like Mule, but our use cases are often about services, which is typically how you'd figure out an SOA," Rosenberg said. "But they also tend to be about things like JMS [Java Message Service] and various other data transport mechanisms. So we consider that really what we do is we move and manage data. And what an SOA does is it moves and manages data typically using services. [With MuleOnDemand], we're just shifting the paradigm outside the enterprise and putting it out into the cloud."

Exactly which option to select depends on the company's system architecture and goals, Rosenberg said. For example, a company might add a Mule Gateway server internally if it's handling high-volume transactions and using Salesforce.com's hosted customer relationship management solution with an internal SAP system, he explained. However, MuleOnDemand might make more sense for companies using Salesforce.com and outsourcing their SAP apps.

MuleSource's customers are typically Fortune 1000 companies. They're fairly sophisticated and already using open source and not scared off by SaaS.

"Most people are already using Mule already, so the initial targets [for the new MuleOnDemand service] are people who are our user base," Rosenberg said.

Salesforce.com gets credit for making SaaS tenable, according to Rosenberg, and MuleSource's solutions can handle the integration issues.

"With Salesforce.com, we have a mapper where you can define and match field names," he said. "You do it once and it stores everything for you. And with this beta, you can just send e-mails with CSVs and text files that will grab them and follow the mapping that you did, and basically do the insert for you into Salesforce.com and log your transaction."

The Mule ESB already handles things like CSV to XML or JMS to XML conversions.

"So all of the functionality that you can get out of the ESB -- which could be things like transformation or routing or mediation or parsing half of a message and sending half of it somewhere else -- is all available in the cloud, and that's where it starts to get interesting…," he added.

The open source aspect to MuleSource's solutions reflects a "cultural mind-shift," according to Rosenberg. It also reflects what its customers are doing today.

"We did a survey about three months ago of 1,000 of our users -- so obviously, they're self-selected in that respect," he said. "We found that about 60 percent of our users are making extensions, changes, creating new plug-ins. We think it really proves the point that middleware makes a lot of sense for open source, just generally speaking."

The ultimate goal of SOA should be to put control back into the hands of the users, he added, unlike the old proprietary software solution.

"What these proprietary guys have done is they've made customers be reliant on them in the way that they do things," he explained. "In the long run, what we're trying to do is we're giving you control over your environment, in how you use our software. If you decide our software doesn't meet your needs, you can modify it."

The company has yet to decide on pricing for the new MuleOnDemand service. The current service is in beta release, but a full-scale launch is targeted for the fourth quarter, Rosenberg said. More information on the service is available here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.

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