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Why MuleSoft Sucks (except it doesn’t)

By Harry Leonard

MuleSoft. Simultaneously revered as both one the greatest pieces of software ever made and an expensive over-engineered enterprise tool consistently drip-feeding disappointment. A topic that seems to divide people the world over.

But why is this? Why is one of the most popular integration tools in the world so divisive?

It seems that MuleSoft’s major marmite effect boils down to three major criticisms:

Lack of ROI

Companies have been ripping out MuleSoft because they aren’t realising the promise of huge return on investment.

Why enterprise software?

Anyone with half a brain can create their own bespoke solution that can serve specific business needs while being far more cost effective.

It’s overpriced

There are so many integration tools out there that can do what is required for a fraction of the licencing cost.

So if this is the case, why do people keep buying it? Is MuleSoft’s marketing just that effective? Let’s delve deeper into each of these three points and find out why.

Firstly, the lack of ROI

I’m not one to call someone’s baby ugly, but the reason many companies aren’t seeing ROI is simply due to poor implementation and adoption. Yes, I know that may seem like a cop out answer but it’s often very true. Using MuleSoft in the same way you would use a Boomi or Jitterbit is doomed to failure. There needs to be change in not just the technology, but the people and process as well.

The biggest factor that contributes to realising true value with MuleSoft is reuse. Should best practice be properly followed, each successive project undertaken becomes cheaper and faster to complete. This exponential growth of reusable APIs is akin to the accumulation of an amazing herb and spice rack.

You have to invest in certain ingredients for each recipe, but as time goes on you can reuse the ingredients from previous recipes, making future ones cheaper and easier to make (Christ, that was a stretch).

Adopting a C4E is also critical to success. Many organisations skip this step and simply assume that everyone in their organisation will develop new APIs and integrations following best practice with a three-tiered architectural approach.

This often isn’t the case. Without the correct governance and people management, MuleSoft will incorrectly be used like any other integration platform and the level of reuse, and therefore ROI will dramatically decrease. C4E adoption doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive either, ThirdEye have developed their own Plug & Play C4E that can be implemented in just a couple of weeks for minimal cost.

Buying market leading software is no guarantee of success. There needs to be a conscious effort all around it to ensure that ROI is realised. Take a look at some of the most successful MuleSoft customers out there. Their success is due to key evangelists making sure that MuleSoft is done right.

‘I can do this cheaper and better myself’

Next, on to the ‘I can do this cheaper and better myself’ argument. I don’t want to doubt or underestimate you or your team’s talents. In fact, I’m confident you could build a cheaper solution using custom code and open source technology that serves the immediate needs of a business. For a lot of organizations, this is the more attractive option, especially those that sit within the mid-market space.

However, this is typically very short term thinking. These custom solutions may seem great at first, providing real value and quick ROI, but this is often short lived. The long term issues will almost inevitably begin to rear their ugly heads.

If you are to go down a point-to-point integration path, it almost certainly won’t leverage reuse. It will quickly start to become a mess resembling a can of cheap tinned spaghetti that’s been knocked to the kitchen floor. You’ve all seen those PTSD-inducing diagrams that look about as easy to untangle as a pair of wired headphones that have been in your pocket all day.

This brittleness can have severe impacts on your business, seriously hampering the speed and agility you need to compete in the modern business world. The inability to deploy new features and create new integrations without breaking something is the thorn in the proverbial backsides of countless organizations.

MuleSoft’s simple three-tiered approach alongside it’s composable and reusable APIs remove this pain by reducing technical debt and dramatically lowering cortisol levels worldwide.

The Anypoint Exchange also provides a wealth of custom connectors, accelerators and assets that massively reduce development time and time to market allowing companies to get new features out to their customers before their competitors do. These assets are also constantly being updated and improved, futureproofing your technology stack.

Cost

Finally, cost. MuleSoft may seem expensive at first. Especially when compared with other cheaper options on the market. It’s often compared with a Ferrari: it looks great, has high performance, but is totally unnecessary for driving round the city.

However, I would argue that the current market is not comparable to city driving, and is in fact more like the autobahn. Nimble competitors leveraging the best in breed technology are racing ahead, leaving the 2003 Nissan Micra slowing shrinking in the wing mirror. MuleSoft isn’t just a simple integration tool that connects systems in a point-to-point fashion. It’s a fully fledged API Led platform that can facilitate rapid growth. A Ferrari that will leave competitors in the dust.

The licencing models are also very flexible and easily scale at the pace in which an organization requires it to. There are a variety of options with different features depending on requirements and the number of vCores is dependent on the size of those requirements. Companies can also flexibly change this when needed.

Many people also don’t consider the additional benefits that are included with the licencing costs. Things such as a dedicated Customer Success Manager and access to MuleSoft’s Solution Architects are not standard practice with other integration platforms and are actually hugely useful to new and long-term customers. Also, the vast amount of documentation and training available online prevents people from repeatedly banging their heads against the wall when coming across a blocker.

All in all, MuleSoft is nowhere near as expensive as many are led to believe, and the pricing models can be far more cost effective than those that charge per API call. A model that can initially seem like great value, but adds up massively with scale.

So there it is. My attempt at unpicking some of the major criticisms of MuleSoft. It’s by no means a perfect product and has its own drawbacks. However, it is still the best integration platform on the market and can transform a business with new routes to market, faster development of new features, access to a potential goldmine of data, and dramatically lowered development costs.

If you’re struggling to realise ROI with MuleSoft or aren’t sure if it’s the right product, you know who to call.

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