CI/CD series – MuleSoft: An API-led approach to continuous integration

This is a guest post for the Computer Weekly Developer Network in our Continuous Integration (CI) & Continuous Delivery (CD) series.

This contribution is written by Paul Crerand in his capacity as senior director for solution engineering EMEA at MuleSoft – the company (now acquired by Salesforce) is known as a vendor that provides an integration platform to help businesses connect data, applications and devices across on-premises and cloud computing environments.

Crerand reminds us that a robust DevOps practice goes hand-in-hand with having continuous integration mechanisms in place.

He says that the goal of continuous integration is to automate and standardise the way development teams build, test and package applications — however, many of today’s applications have been developed with a variety of tools, in various languages, across multiple platforms.

So what to do?

Crerand writes as follows…

Because of this distributed approach to application development [that exists in the real world], IT teams need a way to consolidate workflows and test for duplicate code or bugs, while ensuring that ‘business as normal’ continues to operate.

Continuous integration has a number of benefits, from encouraging collaboration between teams to increasing overall visibility and transparency. Although DevOps and Agile methodologies — including continuous integration — are becoming the norm, some organisations are struggling to support these practices effectively, as it’s difficult to reorganise people and rethink the relationship between development and operations teams.

It is here where API-led connectivity can help organisations enhance their continuous integration practices by streamlining operations.

Discover, consume, reuse

API-led connectivity is a standardised approach to integrating applications, data sources and devices through reusable APIs. By building composable API ‘building blocks’ that can be easily managed, secured and reused for new projects, organisations avoid the hard-wired dependencies between systems that typically arise from custom integrations built on an as-needed basis. The reality is that custom integration can create more problems than it solves, as the close dependencies between systems and applications can make future changes expensive and time-consuming. It’s incredibly difficult to untangle and reconnect these rigid integrations as organisations add new systems and data sources to their technology stacks.

When organisations use APIs to connect disparate systems, an application network naturally emerges over time. New projects add more ‘nodes’ to the network, each marked by an API specification, so it is secure by design, easy to change, and readily discoverable. By building an application network, organisations can ensure the APIs they create offer enduring business value and help drive greater agility.

One company that has adopted an API-led approach to integration is global athletic and apparel company, Asics. The company had chosen Salesforce Commerce Cloud as its new e-commerce platform but needed a solution to integrate Commerce Cloud with pre-existing systems like order management, product inventory, and shipping. Using MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform, Asics connected these systems with standardized APIs to build a robust global e-commerce platform in less than six months.

Now, every piece of integration serves as a reusable asset across its growing portfolio of brands. For example, the ‘Asics Email API’, which was originally created to streamline communications to customers about order shipments and changes in product inventory, will be reused dozens of times as the e-commerce platform is rolled out globally, allowing the developer teams to complete projects 2.5x faster and eliminating multiple points of failure.

As a result, Asics does not need to build, test and deploy a new integration for every process that requires an email notification to be sent to a customer. Instead, they can reuse the same standardised email API and easily track changes, make improvements and control access in one place.

Holistic connections to streamline workflows 

Organisations looking to reap the benefits of continuous integration must move beyond custom integration, which creates data silos and results in a build-up of outdated, incomplete or duplicate code.

Instead, organisations should follow an API-led approach to integration, which allows them to holistically connect their applications, data sources and devices with governance and flexibility built into each connection.

With the combined power of continuous integration and API-led connectivity, development teams will be a step closer to producing collaborative, error-free and ready-to-deploy code.

Crerand: Go API – because custom integration can create more problems than it solves.


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