The MuleSoft Anypoint Platform is an all-inclusive solution that serves a wide range of integration use cases (ESB, iPaaS, API Gateway, API manager, ETL platform, etc.). Xplenty is a targeted, cloud-native solution that focuses on a single integration use case: being the most powerful, easiest-to-use ETL solution on the market.
The biggest differences between MuleSoft and Xplenty relate to ease-of-use and cost. MuleSoft users need extensive training and experience to operate the platform – and because it offers so many features and capabilities, MuleSoft is expensive. In contrast, Xplenty users don’t need any training or experience to build powerful ETL pipelines in minutes – and because it focuses on being the best at one service (user-friendly ETL), Xplenty is a lot more affordable.
The question is: Are Xplenty users giving something up when they choose Xplenty over more expensive alternatives like MuleSoft?
In this guide, we’ll help you answer this question by looking at these two platforms from a number of comparative angles such as price, user interface, functionality, and customer support. We’ll also share some illuminating reviews from users of both platforms.
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Overview of MuleSoft vs. Xplenty
Let’s start with a quick overview of Mulesoft and Xplenty.
The MuleSoft Anypoint Platform is a Salesforce-owned solution that offers a wide range of integration features, services, and capabilities. These include:
- App integration (ESB/iPaaS): MuleSoft offers Mule ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) as well as an iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) to help developers establish connectivity that moves small amounts of data between applications. These features help developers connect applications, microservices, cloud services, IoT devices, and more.
- Data integration (ETL/ELT): MuleSoft includes ETL (extract, transform, load) tools to move large amounts of big data between different sources and destinations. To facilitate integrations, MuleSoft includes the “Anypoint Exchange,” which offers a large number of pre-built connectors for popular data sources and data warehouses. These connectors can extract, transform, and load different message protocols and formats. The AnyPoint platform also supports various programming languages – like Python, Ruby, Java, and Groovy – giving developers the freedom to code custom integrations.
- Salesforce integration: As a Salesforce-owned product, Mulesoft offers powerful two-way Salesforce integration capabilities. You can perform basic create/read/upsert/delete operations, bulk operations on large datasets, and more.
- Other services: Mulesoft includes a dizzying array of additional services like an API Manager, Access Manager, Runtime Manager, API/Application Visualizer, and Application Network Monitor.
Despite the diverse capabilities of MuleSoft, the platform presents four potential challenges:
- A steep learning curve. The AnyPoint Platform is difficult to use. Only a “MuleSoft Engineer” can build ETL/ELT pipelines or "Mule applications" with it. To become a MuleSoft Engineer, you need data engineering experience and extensive training through the MuleSoft.U certification program.
- Expense. MuleSoft is loaded with countless features and capabilities, but they come at a cost. In fact, the platform is so expensive that small- to medium-sized organizations usually can’t afford it.
- More than you need. If you only need a reliable ETL/ELT solution, MuleSoft’s complex offering of services could be a lot more than you require.
- Relies on a desktop IDE. Due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, many ETL developers are sheltering in place and working from home. However, MuleSoft’s web-based ETL tools are limited in capability and most developers need to rely on a desktop IDE (Anypoint Studio) to access the platform’s advanced capabilities. This lack of work-from-home portability has been challenging for MuleSoft developers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the end of the day, MuleSoft is a powerful platform that large enterprises can use as an all-in-one solution for many different integration and API-related use cases. However, before you devote a sizable portion of your budget to this platform, it’s important to identify the needs of your organization and ask whether MuleSoft’s long list of services is required. What are the exact integration requirements you need to address, and could you satisfy your needs with a more focused solution that’s a lot more affordable than MuleSoft?
The Anypoint Platform has matured significantly since its inception. It now has API management, analytics, dashboards, self-discovery, and multiple deployment options. As the feature set has gone up, so has the price. It's starting to price out small to mid-level customers.
- Max B., Solutions Architect, 2-Years of MuleSoft Exp.
Related Reading: Informatica vs. Xplenty
If you want a powerful ETL/ELT platform that focuses every ounce of its efforts on ease-of-use, quality customer support, and affordability, Xplenty could be for you. This no-code/low-code ETL platform brings MuleSoft-level ETL capabilities down to earth – so anyone can create the complex ETL pipelines they need.
At the intersection of ease-of-use and enterprise-grade transformation capabilities, Xplenty is a software-as-a service, or Saas application, that combines an intuitive, point-and-click interface with formidable ETL services. Xplenty empowers ETL beginners, marketing, BI, and BA team members alike to create the kinds of nuanced workflows and data mapping that used to require a data engineer. Also, Xplenty doesn’t leave advanced users behind. The solution offers deep customization features to satisfy the most sophisticated developer.
There’s another advantage to Xplenty: As a fully cloud-native, web-based platform, Xplenty is particularly valuable for teams that need to shelter in place and work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a post-pandemic world, the shift from to remote teams will likely remain to some degree. As such, a shift toward cloud-based software from the traditional on-premises systems is likely to follow.
Here are some of Xplenty’s most compelling features:
- Fully cloud-native product
- No-code/low-code UI for creating complex ETL workflows
- Over 100 out-of-the-box transformations
- A wide variety of pre-built connectors for the most popular sources/destinations
- A native REST API connector for integrating with any data source
- Workflow creation tools for defining dependencies between tasks
- Cutting-edge security and compliance
- Detailed error logs
- Alerting by email with no additional configuration
- Package portability so you can replicate an existing job to another account
- Excellent scalability due to the fact that aggregations are processed with a dynamically-created cluster
- On-call telephone and video chat support to walk you through the application integration process
- Two-way Salesforce to Salesforce integrations
Xplenty’s support for two-way Salesforce-to-Salesforce integration is worth focusing on. This feature is usually only available in the most expensive integration platforms like Mulesoft and IBM App Connect. Xplenty allows you to pull data from Salesforce, transform it, and load it back into Salesforce, empowering you to perform transformations (like cross joining, ranking, sorting, cloning, asserting, limiting, aggregating, etc.) on your Salesforce data without the high cost of a larger platform. In this way, Xplenty has liberated many enterprises from the grips of high-priced, feature-heavy integration platforms.
“There are mostly two types of ETL as a service on the market: one is super easy to use and can migrate your data across services and databases but lacks transformation capabilities, while the other needs full-time data engineers to operate but tailored solutions are available programmatically. Xplenty sits in the golden middle letting analysts and engineers deploying custom transformation jobs in minutes even based on multiple data sources.”
Now that you’ve had a quick overview of MuleSoft and Xplenty, let’s compare these solutions from several different angles.
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MuleSoft Anypoint charges by the month and asks for an annual contract. The cost of the platform will vary from month-to-month based on the amount of data you extract and load. If your data volume soars temporarily, monthly costs will skyrocket. If volume drops, costs will lower. This means that your monthly costs for MuleSoft could be unpredictable and difficult to budget.
MuleSoft is one of the most expensive ETL solutions on the market today. In fact, we’ve heard from many enterprises that are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on the Mulesoft Anypoint Platform. Some are even spending millions. According to the price-tracking website ITQlik, MuleSoft pricing starts at approximately $80,000 a year. However, the price that most enterprises pay is closer to $250,000 a year.
On top of the high platform costs of MuleSoft, you should be prepared for the following auxiliary expenses:
- Hiring skilled MuleSoft Engineers. Only MuleSoft Engineers who have completed their MuleSoft.U training and certification have the requisite experience to use the platform.
- Long implementation time. Due to the learning curve and complexity of working with MuleSoft – and depending on the integration project at hand – it can take one to six months of preparation before you can fully implement your MuleSoft integration strategy. This is in stark contrast to Xplenty, which you can get up and running in a day or two.
- Training and certification for new team members. Each time a trained MuleSoft engineer leaves, you will need to find a replacement, who may need training and certification on the platform, representing an additional expense.
Mulesoft offers a free, 30-day trial of the platform.
Here’s what users say about MuleSoft’s price:
“With the maturity of the platform, the cost is increasing so it's starting to price out some small- to medium-size customers… For just a few simple integrations, the Anypoint Platform can be prohibitively expensive.”
“Great but not very cheap. Mulesoft has tons of capabilities; however, where I see it's lacking is usability, it's tough to set-up Anypoint Studio on local machines. Though Flow Designer is an alternate to that, however, it has very limited capabilities and it's extremely tough to build integrations there for business users. Very expensive and no pay-as-you-go model.”
Xplenty offers a much simpler and more scalable pricing structure. Rather than charging by the volume of data, Xplenty charges per connector - regardless of data volume. Your cost will stay the same depending on how many connectors you have.
The predictability of Xplenty’s pricing means that you can plan your ETL budget in advance, and you never have to worry about high data volumes causing an exorbitant bill. If you want to try Xplenty for yourself, there’s a free 2-week pilot with no restrictions.
Here’s what users say about Xplenty’s price:
“The cost of their service is well worth the accuracy, consistency, and time savings it provides. I would recommend them to anyone looking to connect data in CRM systems like Salesforce to SQL databases, and anything in between.”
User Interface and Capabilities
MuleSoft UI and Capabilities
If you’re building an ETL pipeline, MuleSoft has two platforms to get the job done: Flow Designer and Anypoint Studio.
Flow Designer is a browser-based, no-code/low-code platform for building ETL integrations. Flow Designer includes a graphical user interface and a wide variety of pre-built connectors for the most popular sources and destinations. Developers can drag-and-drop elements to build ETL flows. Flow Designer also offers a list of commonly-used, out-of-the-box transformations (transformers) for common integration use cases.
A potential setback of Flow Designer is that many developers complain about its limited capacity when it comes to building complex ETL processes. Developers sometimes feel frustrated and limited by Flow Designer, wishing that the platform had more customization features like Anypoint Studio.
Here’s an image of the Flow Designer in action:
(Animation Source: Salesforce)
Although Anypoint Studio offers the ETL power that developers want, some developers complain that it should also be available as a web-based UI. Other developers complain about the stiff barrier to entry. Extensive training is needed before anyone can use Anypoint Studio and the DataWeave expression language effectively.
This is a screenshot of Anypoint Studio:
Here’s what users say about using Flow Designer and Anypoint Studio:
“Though [Anypoint Studio] is more informative, sometimes the screen provides so many details, which may not be needed in day to day development. As per my experience, 80% of interfaces in an enterprise are simple to medium complex. If it could have been simplified, then it could have been better.”
“From a developer’s perspective indeed you will need to invest some time (and money if you want to be a certified MuleSoft developer). The advantage of the Anypoint Platform is the inherent logic and tools that help developers progress fast with projects.”
“Sometimes the [MuleSoft] UI is confusing, especially when mocking services. I feel that after the recent upgrade of the web application, some features are not working as well as before. Specifically, the RAML editor is now less intuitive and it's sometimes more difficult to identify errors in the code.”
Xplenty UI and Capabilities
Xplenty designed its intuitive, drag-and-drop interface with beginners in mind. Even if you don’t know anything about ETL, after a quick walkthrough of the platform with an integration specialist, you’ll be able to click through Xplenty’s visual, no-code UI to set up custom ETL pipelines in minutes. Users with no coding skills can set API parameters, define data fields, name headers, set primary keys for consolidations, and schedule integration intervals. This permits company-wide use of the platform by any team member, which liberates dedicated software engineers from routine ETL work.
By empowering business analysts and marketing teams to build their own ETL pipelines for their specific requirements, Xplenty allows individual departments and teams to react much faster to changing requirements. Xplenty also features countless of out-of-the-box transformations to save you time and effort.
Here’s how easy it is to create a transformation workflow with the Xplenty UI:
- Go to the main menu and click “Packages.”
- Click “New Package.”
- Click the Workflow option you want from the dropdown.
- Select the transformations you want.
- Identify conditions that trigger the transformations.
Best of all, if you ever get stuck – or can’t figure out how to set up a connection or configure a transformation – Xplenty’s support will show you how to do it. Xplenty’s integration specialists will help you connect to the most uncommon data sources and destinations.
Here’s what users say about the Xplenty UI:
“After evaluating 10 or so ETL providers I went with Xplenty because their service has a relatively straightforward GUI, but also allows for a fairly sophisticated level of configuration. Most of the time the GUI is sufficient, but I'm also able to script bits and pieces and add custom SQL to handle the weird edge cases or make some of the large transfers more efficient (e.g. using a custom date field). I'm also able to do data transformations as part of the pipeline.”
“The only solution for many of my ETL needs. We needed to connect to less common APIs and Xplenty was the only (almost) no-code platform that was able to do this. Xplenty is very flexible and has a good UI to perform this task.”
“The [Xplenty] UI is intuitive but you can always use SQL to filter your sources or to create new sets in scheduled packages. Also, there are plenty of built-in functions available. Running costs are not comparable if running your own services on Heroku or Google cloud but its intuitive features save a lot of engineering hours. I would recommend Xplenty for agile teams having multiple sources of data where data analysts frequently need custom datasets to deliver insights.”
“Xplenty is on PAR with enterprise-level tools.”
MuleSoft Customer Support
If you don’t invest in the MuleSoft enterprise tier, you will not receive full access to customer support. You will only receive partial customer support services. MuleSoft discloses on its webpage that “in order to access all of the features of the MuleSoft Help Center, you will need an Enterprise Account configured.”
With no one to help you set up your first integrations on the MuleSoft platform, you will need to acquire the additional expense of employing a certified MuleSoft Engineer to help you get your integrations and workflows up and running.
Even MuleSoft users with access to customer support aren’t always impressed:
“Support from MuleSoft is not sufficient so far. We need to raise a case if we face an issue and average response time from MuleSoft folks is not as fast as I would expect. We have faced this problem a couple of times in my office.”
“As I'm using Batch Processing extensively for many business processes to achieve real-time data integration. Many times, I faced an issue on Batch Processing got stuck in the load phase and there was no timely support from Mule.”
Xplenty Customer Support
All Xplenty customers – no matter their service-level commitment – receive unlimited telephone, video conferencing, email, and text chat support with Xplenty’s highly responsive support team. If you encounter trouble using the platform, want someone to guide you through the process of setting up a connection, or just have a few questions, your Xplenty client representative is always available to work with you closely until the challenge is solved.
Here’s how online reviewers describe Xplenty’s amazing support team:
“What we love best about Xplenty is the near real-time support we get from the team. Xplenty's point of difference is the customer support we receive. The product itself is good. Easy to use at a high level. The people at Xplenty are the difference - which is unusual for Cloud proposition. A nice change from dealing with a faceless machine.”
“The customer support is one of the best I have experienced. They were very prompt every time I would have an issue with using Xplenty. Moreover, the development team is also quite fast, as they were able to implement pagination for an API I was using in less than 2 days.”
"Xplenty is an ETL and ELT platform that has helped my data team immensely. Overall the best part is how much they value my company as a client. You can’t find that in many ETL companies. I searched many other companies, and I am happy I chose Xplenty."
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Final Thoughts on MuleSoft vs. Xplenty
Let’s finish this comparison with an analogy. Imagine you need to open a hundred boxes, and you can choose between a Swiss Army knife and a box cutter. You’d pick the box cutter because (1) it’s made specifically to open boxes, (2) it’s a lot less expensive; and (3) there’s no reason to pay extra for a corkscrew, leather punch, or can opener when you’re never going to need them.
That’s what it’s like with MuleSoft and Xplenty. MuleSoft is chock full of tools like a Swiss Army knife. If you need all of those overpriced features – if you can afford them and have the skills required to use them – MuleSoft could be the platform for you.
On the other hand, what if you just need a powerful, ETL solution that’s affordable, and very easy to use? If that’s the case, then you’re not giving anything up when you choose Xplenty. As a powerful, more affordable and easier-to-use alternative to MuleSoft, Xplenty users have a lot to gain. Especially now, with more of us working from home due to COVID-19, we think a fully web-based solution like Xplenty is more important than ever.