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How will the Salesforce acquisition of MuleSoft impact the platform revolution?

Date: April 9, 2018
Author: Sydney Sloan
Category:Digital Transformation

Consolidation of technologies into “mega platforms” continues with the latest big move by Salesforce.com acquiring open API integration platform company, MuleSoft.  With the acquisition not yet a month old, Salesforce isn't wasting any time in putting MuleSoft's technology under their fold of products and customer offerings with the recent announcement of their Salesforce Integration Cloud. I've been thinking about what this means for both players and the industry at large, and recently sat down with our CTO and Founder, John Newton who provided his unique perspective:

Sydney Sloan: What kind of message do you think was sent when Salesforce acquired MuleSoft?

John Newton: This is further validation of platform thinking and the role that platforms will play in companies’ IT infrastructure and their business models. Salesforce has been a strong example of expanding their SaaS CRM platform into a developer friendly digital platform designed to address multiple needs across businesses.  MuleSoft has had wide impact on the latest approach of leveraging APIs to create an ecosystem and economies that scale beyond the enterprise boundaries.   This has certainly had a strong impact on its valuation and Salesforce was willing to pay a premium to help their customers expand their reach.

SS: Did this acquisition come as a surprise to anyone in the market?

JN
: This is a logical play for Salesforce, as it is the largest SaaS provider and with CRM at the core, it offers a natural channeling point of information from the rest of the organization to the customer. What seems to be a surprise to Salesforce customers is the premium they paid--but this is a strategic platform move in the market.

SS: Will the acquisition have an effect on MuleSoft's customer portfolio, given its new owner?

JN: MuleSoft was a neutral player in the arbitrage of information from one technical platform to another. This is a critical piece in providing business platforms that companies are implementing to support their customers. However, MuleSoft is no longer a neutral player since they will be biased toward Salesforce's needs and strategies. Software vendors who were once willing to work with a neutral party like MuleSoft may not do so as easily, unless they are already invested in the Salesforce platform.

SS: How do you foresee the Salesforce/MuleSoft relationship existing in the future?

JN: To continue to gain favorable access to other platforms, Salesforce may leave MuleSoft alone and allow it to act with autonomy. This is what happened, more or less, with Skype and LinkedIn when they were acquired by Microsoft. Integration came eventually, but it took a back seat to growing the business and retaining customer allegiance.

SS: What opportunities do you think this acquisition lends to open source players?

JN: There is now room for a strong open source alternative, which MuleSoft had once occupied. MuleSoft had moved away from open source positioning a few years ago, creating a more proprietary lock on its customers. Customers may now look at that lock-in in a very different light. Look for new open source platforms built around Apache such as Apache ServiceMix and Camel, or open platforms built on open standards such as RapidAPI, to shine and try to position Salesforce MuleSoft as closed.

SS: What does this move by Salesforce mean for existing Alfresco customers?

JN: The value of an open platform such as ours is that it plays nicely with others by design. In fact, we’ve got strong integrations into both existing Salesforce.com and MuleSoft products, today.  Given how our customers see value in connecting these with what we do, as they seek to deliver differentiated solutions at speed, I don’t see that changing going forward.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this acquisition and the opportunities you think it brings to the market.  Leave us a comment here or join the conversation on our social channels such as Twitter and Linked:in using the hashtag #platformrevolution. For a deeper look into MuleSoft and the important role they play in the API economy, we encourage you to read this Forbes interview we conducted with MuleSoft's founder, Ross Mason.

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