Open Enterprise Interview: Ross Mason, MuleSource


One of the hottest buzzwords/buzzphrases over the last few years has been Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). This is rather good news for open source, since SOA's underlying philosophy of linking together many separate elements fits free software like a glove.

Proof of that is provided by the success of the open source enterprise service bus project Mule, which has been downloaded over a million times.

Ross Mason, Mule's creator and now CTO of the associated open source start-up MuleSource, explains where the company and its name comes from, and talks about the recently-launched Mule Galaxy, whose modest aspiration is to become the "central source of truth" for a company's SOA infrastructure.

GM: What's your background? When did you first come across open source – and what did you think of it then?

RM: I started my career in IT in financial services - I was Lead Architect for RaboBank, where we developed one of the first large-scale ESB implementations in 2002. I've also worked with NatWest Bank, Credit Suisse and UBS. I've always worked in distributed computing and integration. Prior to founding MuleSource, I was Chief Executive Officer of SymphonySoft Limited, an EU-based company providing services and support for large-scale integration projects.

I had first encountered open source in the late 90s, as Linux came into the mainstream. At the time, although it was a huge departure from the traditional software model, open source really resonated with me as an IT architect, since it allows for distributed innovation, and necessitates a modular architecture. It really seemed like a better way to develop and distribute software.

Soon after I got more involved open source when I discovered and started using projects such as Tomcat and Jakarta-commons in my projects. I don't think I truly understood the drivers for open source until I started contributing myself.

GM: How did Mule and MuleSource come about: who started them, when, and why?

RM: I founded the Mule project in 2003. I like to say that while I was working in IT, I was often frustrated by the "donkey work" of integration, so I set out to create a new platform that emphasized ease of development and re-use of components. I started the Mule project to bring a modern approach, one of assembly, rather than repetitive coding, to developers worldwide. In 2006, I founded MuleSource with my co-founder Dave Rosenberg, to help support and enable the rapidly growing community using Mule in mission-critical enterprise applications.

GM: What business problems is Mule/MuleSource trying to solve?

RM: MuleSource is in the business of open source SOA infrastructure. SOA, or service oriented architecture, is a modern architectural approach that moves away from relying on large, monolithic applications that are integrated using custom point-to-point interfaces, towards a more modular architecture that relies on modular bits of application logic, or "services", assembling those reusable services into larger composite applications to perform a specific business function.

The result is that IT can reduce the development costs for new applications (by reusing and re-assembling existing services rather than rewriting entire applications), reduce software maintenance costs (by upgrading and maintaining only components that change), and get to market dramatically faster with new initiatives, responding to competitive threats or taking advantage of market opportunities.

Mule is an enterprise service bus (ESB) that serves as the basis for the SOA approach - a connectivity layer that is designed to support high-performance, multi-protocol transactions between heterogeneous systems and services. Mule provides all of the functions that ESBs provide, including:

· Service creation and hosting (acting as a service container and exposing application logic as services)

· Service mediation (separating business logic and messaging, and enabling location-independence for services)

· Message routing (based on content and complex rules)

· Data transformation (exchanging data across applications with varying data formats and protocols)

Our newest product, Mule Galaxy, is an SOA registry/repository and governance platform. Galaxy acts as the "central source of truth" for the SOA infrastructure, enabling developers to track all of their services and other development artifacts in the Galaxy repository.

This allows developers across an IT organisation to collaborate on SOA development, tracking services through the development lifecycle and finding useful services to use in new projects. Galaxy also makes sure that developers are following best practices and policies with regard to their development processes.

The result of using a tool like Galaxy is that organisations can get the most value out of SOA, maximizing collaboration and service reuse, and getting full visibility into the various services and assets available.

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