Extending its portfolio of solutions to cover the last and potentially most challenging mile of an enterprise's services-oriented, API-led business transformation journey, MuleSoft announced the Crowd release of its Anypoint Platform today at Connect, its annual conference in San Francisco. The new release of the company’s Anypoint Platform is not only intended to help organizations fully realize the potential of their APIs and other developer-consumable network services, it's also designed to address some of security risks inherent to the sprawl of such services (disclosure: MuleSoft is the parent company to ProgrammableWeb.com).
One of the fundamental benefits of any services oriented interface such as an API has to do with how its autonomy and re-usability by a multitude of consumers (mobile apps, Web apps, SaaS apps, server apps and associated workflows) can fuel the transformation and agility of an enterprise. Once an organization adopts a services-oriented culture and decomposes its technology monoliths into smaller, discreet, and autonomous networked services, the costs associated with everything from technical redundancy to scale to developer productivity will be driven down. Meanwhile, the rate at which the organization can develop game-changing business functionality should accelerate.
Reminiscent of the now infamous memo once issued by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to his entire company, this promise has served as a clarion call to many IT directors and CxOs to rethink their organizations' entire information technology stacks. In that memo, Bezos wrote that "all teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces,” that those teams "must communicate with each other through these interfaces,” and that "no other form of interprocess communication would be allowed.” Bezos went onto say that transgressors would be fired.
But, what Bezos left out of the memo is who or what would take responsibility for the promotion and discovery of those services as they sprang up across Amazon’s internal network. Imagine being the poor developer at any company that broke the rule because s/he was unaware that "the crowd” had already published a service for what s/he was looking to do.
It’s one thing for great API and SOA management solutions to cover all of the many well-known aspects of running developer-consumable programmable interfaces such as their design, provisioning, documentation, and governance (as MuleSoft’s Anypoint and other API management offerings do). For an organization’s “crowd” of developers, it’s another to take the friction out of the discovery and consumption of those services en masse in a way that the company starts to truly benefit from its services-oriented culture, ultimately transforming itself.
Consider for example how end-users can easily browse re-usable assets on Netflix, YouTube, or in Apple’s app store all of which, within themselves, provide integral environments for publishing, promoting, discovering, and consuming those assets (and that offer analytics so that providers can study outcomes). Taking the app store analogy one step further, imagine if the tooling for designing and compiling those applications were integral to the environment as well.
In the latest release of its Anypoint Platform (again, dubbed “Crowd”), MuleSoft has closed that gap with an integral set of solutions and tools that not only eases the discovery and subsequent consumption of networkable services such as APIs and other service connectors, but that also takes it a level deeper by promoting the standardization, discovery and re-use of API design patterns as organizations bring more APIs to bear against their transformation objectives.
Above: Whether the asset is an API, an API's design spec, or a fragment of the design spec (a design pattern), it can be shared though Exchange.
Four years ago, the company introduced the RAML API description language with an eye towards modularizing API designs in a way that the purpose-specific patterns within them could be easily re-used in other API designs. The idea was to help enterprises standardize on API design patterns in such a way that all of an organization’s APIs were not only consistent and predictable from a developer’s point of view, but that also enforced mission critical design patterns across all APIs. For example, if a standard API security pattern resulted from a collaboration between an organization's API designers and infosec personnel, that pattern could be re-used across APIs in a way that essentially enforced a mutually agreed upon security standard.
However, whether those patterns addressed security or just the organization’s standards for data types, validation and schemas, promoting, discovering, and consuming them in other designs has remained a challenge.
Within the Crowd release, Anypoint's discipline of integral promotion, discovery, and consumption of re-usable networked APIs and other programmable interfaces (through a component called Exchange) is available to these modularizd API design patterns as well. And, because of the integral nature of the entire portfolio, API designers can contextually discover and re-use design patterns within MuleSoft’s API Designer while developers can discover and re-use APIs in the context of MuleSoft’s app dev solutions such as its web-based flow designer and MuleSoft Studio.
IT research organization Gartner has identified this last mile as one of the more troublesome areas for organizations to get under control. "The explosion of mobile, big data, SaaS, PaaS and the internet of things is creating spiraling levels of integration work and complexity” Gartner said. "In addition, integration specialists, application developers and LOBs across the enterprise are increasingly doing their own integration on an ad hoc basis. As a result, applications, data and devices are inconsistently accessed, integrated and managed, and are hampering business agility and introducing governance and security risks.”
In Crowd, MuleSoft is clearly hoping to help its customers gain control of that last mile before the proliferation of networkable services creates an entirely new set of challenges.