Tuesday, 01 September 2020 17:47

Martini shakes up software integration

Toro Cloud CEO and founder David Brown Toro Cloud CEO and founder David Brown

Toro Cloud's Martini integration platform as a service blurs the distinction between integration and application development.

The IT background of David Brown, CEO and founder of Toro Cloud, goes back to the early 2000s when he was running an ecommerce software company that was Australia's largest supplier in that segment. The dot-com bust caused a change of direction, and he started selling pet supplies online. Running on his own software, the business grew to around 3000 orders a day, at which point he started deploying third-party enterprise systems in order to keep up with the changes in the business.

"The experience wasn't great," he told iTWire. It was arduous and time consuming, and there was significant lock-in to the vendors and systems integrators involved.

So Brown decided to address the requirements of medium-sized enterprises with more than 100 employees and sales in excess of $50 million. Such organisations face the same problems as larger enterprises, but have fewer resources to bring to bear on solving them.

The answer, as he saw it, was an API-centric integration platform as a service (IPaaS), and so Toro Cloud and its flagship product Martini was born.

It features the Gloop drag-and-drop low-code application development system, provision for using a variety of languages (Java, Ruby, JavaScript, Python and others) for custom logic that can't be implemented in Gloop, an API gateway, the ability to build microservices with Restful inputs and outputs, and transparent pricing including a 'try before you buy' option.

Martini is used in digital transformation projects and to create new products, among other things, said Brown.

"We cover a lot of ground" between application integration and application development," he explained.

For example, an organisation might use Salesforce as its system of record for contact information. That data can be accessed via APIs and combined using custom logic with data from other sources to achieve a desired result.

"The distinction between application and integration is being blurred," Brown told iTWire.

Most integration vendors use the idea of a connector that wraps around any particular API or SDK to suit that application platform. "We started the same way," he conceded, but that makes customers reliant on the vendor.

Toro Cloud realised that companies frequently change their APIs, and that tends to break the relevant connectors.

So it switched to API-centric integration, an approach that (as the name suggests) directly accesses APIs. This is achieved by automatically building code against an imported API schema, taking advantage of work done by the OpenAPI Initiative, of whichToro Cloud is a member.

This means that if an API changes, all the customer needs to do is click Rebuild, and Martini does all the work necessary to accommodate that change.

Martini can also assist organisations that are using microservices as part of their software architecture.

The idea behind microservices is that each microservice should perform a very specific function, Brown explained. Where legacy systems tend to be monolithic, their modern equivalents are generally very modular. Furthermore, microservices are designed to be integrated with each other, so there's no need for message brokers, etc.

But something is still needed to handle the business logic needed to assemble microservices into working systems, and Martini can play that role even where thousands of microservices are involved, he said.

Martini can be a valuable tool for migrating an existing monolithic or largely monolithic application to a modern, microservices-based architecture.

Customers are using Martini to break down monolithic legacy systems into micro services by putting Martini in front of them, so that next time they need to add a process any new functionality can be implemented as one or more microservices with Martini handling the routing. Brown describes this as breaking down the monolith one service at a time.

It can also be used to simplify securing access to APIs by using OAuth 2.0, or for providing customers with APIs for placing orders, he said.

One specific use he described was that of a US pharmacy group that linked its logistics system with its pharmacy management system. The problem was that pharmacy management systems are designed for in-store use, not for mail order operations, but they are certified to receive prescriptions electronically, so building a custom system from scratch would be a major challenge.

Using Martini to connect the two systems eliminated the slow and potentially error-prone process of manually transcribing data before orders could be picked, packed and dispatched, as well as allowing real-time communication with customers about the status of their orders.

Toro Cloud – which is in the process of relocating its operations from Hong Kong to Australia – has almost completed a new product for building web user interfaces via drag and drop, and connecting them to back-end processes.

For example, a table could be dragged onto a form, and then bound to a Salesforce getContent operation (or similar) to dynamically populate it with data. The designer can map the data however they want to be displayed, so the product gives them control over the user experience.

This product is likely to be released in a matter of weeks, Brown said.

Integration is one of the largest software markets in the world, he said, but it is a mature space. Toro Cloud already provides a robust, low-code, API-centric integration platform, and the arrival of its new front-end tool will increase its differentiation from the rest of the market.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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