The application network leader’s 2017 conference examined the tech industry’s emerging challenges, opportunities and new capabilities.
At MuleSoft’s (NYSE: MULE) fourth annual CONNECT conference in San Francisco, tech leaders met to discuss the new innovations and ideas that will disrupt and reinvent business in the coming year. The event also set the stage for the next major release of MuleSoft's Anypoint Platform, as well as an announcement that the company is joining the Linux Foundation's Open API Initiative.
MuleSoft is widely regarded as a leading software platform for connecting applications, data and devices, both on-premises and in the cloud. By harnessing the power of application program interfaces (APIs) to build application networks, the Anypoint Platform assists clients who want to build a bridge between legacy systems and cutting-edge applications and systems.
The event featured thought-provoking talks about the evolving power of enterprise systems by chief information and technology officers as well as integration architects and engineers, from Silicon Valley giants including Airbnb, Okta, Splunk and Zendesk. A common theme among the speakers was the challenges companies often face when adapting their systems to meet ever-transforming business requirements. Rebecca Parsons, the chief technology officer of ThoughtWorks, referred to this capability as “evolvability.”
Getting the Most Out of Data — and People
Several talks at CONNECT touched on ways for central IT to empower IT teams across the organization to quickly deliver their own integration projects securely and to innovate freely, including how to make the most of Crowd, the latest release of its Anypoint Platform. The new features in Crowd allow users to not only create but also save and reuse APIs and other integrated assets in the Anypoint Platform.
During a first-day live demo, MuleSoft CTO Uri Sarid showed how API-led connectivity allowed him to search for the best job candidates by directly connecting to LinkedIn, Slack, Github and even Meetup. And by pairing with Workday software, he demonstrated a new way to discover candidates with stellar performance reviews.
Sarid showed the audience how to use Glassdoor’s exposed APIs to identify potential candidates by referring to previous titles. He explained how, when hiring a senior software engineer, it isn’t enough to look at people currently in the role, or with an obvious prior title.
New Architecture for Living Systems
Another major theme at CONNECT was how important it has been for successful startups to develop a stack of applications to support the service they offer. For instance, below the most successful ride-hailing apps are countless other services that allow for communication, coordination, driver directions and payments. Before these apps could exist, the services behind the service had to reach the kind of maturity where they could be made available to developers to further modify and expand.
“Even with all the talk of big data these days, people don’t think about the big data architecture,” noted ThoughtWorks CTO Parsons.
One salient example came from back-end insurance software provider GuideWire. Since its launch in 2001, the technology that drove its growth has also created its own obstacles, said CEO and cofounder Marcus Ryu.
“Legacy systems lock in legacy strategy,” he told the attendees. Ryu likened overhauling a complete system to open-heart surgery: The patient must stay alive while the necessary organs are being repaired and replaced.
As part of the framework that powers numerous industry giants, GuideWire needed reliable life support while making dramatic changes to its core systems. Ryu credited MuleSoft with making those transitions, including the recent deployment of a new expense-management software, as painless as possible. While MuleSoft wasn’t the surgeon, it was responsible for designing a state-of-the-art operating room.
Beyond Traditional Tech
The benefits of smoothly upgrading systems extend beyond the business community.
The Veterans Health Administration, for instance, is one of the largest health-care organizations in the world. And it faces the same challenges as any other health-care system. As just one example, it must continue to deliver essential services while responding to new stresses, like the need to maintain and update digital health-care records.
This is why having the APIs that seamlessly connect different systems are so vital. The VA process, for instance, hit a consistent snag during enrollment, with an individual’s records getting lost between a VA office and the Defense Health Agency’s recordkeeping systems. Steve Rushing, of the Georgia Tech Institute for People and Technology, explained how the VA worked with MuleSoft to build the necessary APIs to bridge that gap.
“We could recompose without disrupting anyone on either side of the API we were working with,” Rushing said. “The magnitude of the VA is important, but the lessons are broadly applicable.”