Are we seeing a renaissance in the middleware space? It definitely does seem so. If the recent $6.5 Billion acquisition of Mulesoft by Salesforce is any indicator the middleware space is definitely not dead. I got my middleware creds working for Cast Iron which eventually got acquired by IBM. Cast Iron was founded in the ashes of the dot com ruins. Indeed successful companies have been founded when the dark clouds are swirling, typically those with a disruptive solution offering. Cast Iron was one of those, seeking to disrupt the middleware space with well entrenched players like WebMethods, Tibco, IBM etc. The messaging was simple “Integrate in Days”, implying the current ways of integration were just taking too long, and with a solution in a box (appliance) and a no coding approach things could be drastically simplified. The company found it’s true calling when the cloud took off, with solutions like Salesforce, NetSuite, Successfactors, Workday etc. Integration was still a problem but customers were not willing to pay millions for integrating solutions that they were paying only a few 10s of dollars per month subscribing. Cloud integration was not just another glorified buzzword and contemporary companies like Boomi, Jitterbit, Snaplogic, Talend etc. were proof that it was a thriving space. This is where the fairy tale has a pause:
For Cloud ISVs the integration question was/is a nuisance, it is a hindrance to their sales and pina coladas on their “President’s Club” vacation. Some of the ISVs have tackled the problem by providing the best APIs (still requiring development effort to build integrations) while others have built rudimentary integration capabilities into their platform. One could argue integration is one of the oldest problems in the IT industry. Billion dollar companies were created in the 90s trying to solve this problem. The resurgence of the 2000s saw a whole crop of new successful players, however many of these players saw their success flagging as some of these companies tried to be disruptive on price. Then we saw a spate of acquisitions that cleared out the field from the top and the space as a whole languished even though the integration problem never went away. Indeed with the increasing number of cloud offerings the problem might have just been shoved under the rug by ISVs.
Off late we have seen a slew of new integration companies being funded by VCs, a few that come to mind are Zapier, IFTTT, Automate.io., PieSync, OneSaas, Built.io, Skyvia, . Mulesoft acquisition is a like a shot in the arm of the integration space. It is lending credence to the resurgence we are seeing in the integration space. Companies still need the ability to reliably and inexpensively integrate the complex hybrid world of solution offerings where legacy on premise systems can only justify their co-existence with the ever-increasing number of cloud platforms if they can just integrate with them. Artificial Intelligence also relies heavily on the ability to access data from various different platforms. The problem might be age old but the solutions are new and the space is thriving.