The market for API management platforms is growing rapidly, and all of the major technology vendors want a piece. At the top of the heap are Google’s Apigee and Salesforce’s Mulesoft, but what’s the difference between the two?

As part of Computing Delta’s ongoing research into Apigee vs Mulesoft and other API management services, our research team has been asking senior IT professionals about their preferences to help you answer the question…

Which API management technology vendor should I use?

Computing Delta conducted a two-month analysis of this market, with interviews with IT leaders who are have used these services. This is available to Delta subscribers; click here if you do not have access but would like to see the full report in a demo. More information, including comparisons with other vendors, is available in the APIs Special Report, and in this video interview with IT leaders at Mars and Starling Bank. If you are looking to make an API management platform comparison, this article provides a brief summary of two of the market leaders, Apigee vs Mulesoft.

Apigee vs Mulesoft – the background

Apigee was founded in 2004 as Sona Systems, and rebranded in 2010. Google acquired it in 2016 for $625 million, at a time when Apigee was generating less than $100 million in revenue ($68.6 million in 2015, $92 million in 2016). Reports indicate that the acquisition was intended as a stepping stone to bring new customers to Google Cloud, rather than to add API hosting capabilities to the search giant’s offering.

The company is still relatively small, with fewer than 500 employees. Google does not break out its financial results separately from the rest of Google Cloud Platform.

MuleSoft is a US company with more than 1,100 employees, headquartered in San Francisco. Salesforce acquired the firm in 2018 for $6.5 billion – the largest deal in its history, although one that attracted criticism. However, Mulesoft performed ahead of expectations in Q4 2018, with revenue of $181 million (of which $156 million was service and support revenue), and $431 million over the course of 2018: a 45 per cent YoY increase.

Purely in terms of revenue, Apigee vs Mulesoft seems to place the latter as a firm winner. But revenues do not tell the whole story.

API products

APIs drive many modern services, and enable companies to draw on skills they may not have internally. Simply put, they enable two applications to talk to each other by sending and receiving data. Rather than spending time and effort to develop their own payments platform, a firm could simply pay a fee and paste a few lines of code to get something built by experts. An apt analogy is that of a plug socket: this provides a universal connection for a product (an electrical appliance) to connect to a service (the electricity flow).

APIs are so important that one IT leader we spoke to for our Delta report on the subject said:

'Without APIs, most of the current web would not function.' Click To Tweet

The number of APIs firms use is constantly growing as they add new applications and services to their infrastructure, creating a complex web of connections. API calls (customers using the APIs to access a service) also rise over time. This makes management platforms key to a successful installation.

An API management platform serves as a proxy for customer requests. It limits the number of queries each customer can send, and ensures that a high number of queries – either sent maliciously or unintentionally – does not crash a service.

In terms of management platforms, Apigee produces Apigee Edge and Mulesoft customers use the Anypoint Platform. Both are full lifecycle management tools: in addition to query management they have advanced features like analytics; runtime management; developer portals; and ways to plan, build, roll out and retire APIs.

What is Apigee Edge?

Apigee Edge is a single platform for API management, developer services and analytics. Functions include API design, security, publishing, monitoring and monetisation, as well as microservice management. Users praised the analytics functionality, but were sceptical about the use of Swagger, which developers may need to learn to work with the tool. Apigee also provides related services like Apigee-127, which developers can use to design and build enterprise-class APIs in Node.js and deploy them on any Node.js system.

The solution is available both on-premises and in the cloud (Apigee supports public, private, hybrid and multi-cloud), although respondents said that the cloud version is both cheaper and easier to install.

What is Mulesoft’s Anypoint Platform?

Mulesoft created the Anypoint Platform by merging API management into its Mule integration platform in 2013. Although this can be an attractive proposition, companies that already have an integration platform may find the Anypoint Platform too much for them. To address this, Mulesoft launched a standalone API management product (see ‘Anypoint Platform – API Management Solution’) in 2018.

The company has continued to iterate on the platform, and users are now able to combine internal services and third-party APIs. With the October 2019 release Mulesoft began trialling a new microservices service mesh (Anypoint Service Mesh), for customers to ‘discover, manage and secure any service deployed to Kubernetes’. This brings the Anypoint Platform’s functionality even closer to its rival in the Apigee vs Mulesoft battle.

Mulesoft focuses on helping customers speed up their digital transformations. Thanks to its integration-focused past, the Anypoint Platform has several pre-built connectors for systems including SAP, AWS and Salesforce. These make integration a fast process, but can be limiting: Apigee customers said that they write their own connectors, and in practice found this less restrictive than worrying about whether there was a pre-built connector for a system.

Like Apigee Edge, the Anypoint Platform can run on-premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid deployment.

Apigee vs Mulesoft at a glance

Apigee vs Mulesoft Pricing

Neither company produces public pricing information, although they do share information on subscription plans. We also achieved some insight into pricing through our interviews with customers.

Apigee subscriptions are divided into four tiers, ranging from the free Evaluation tier (one user, one environment; 100,000 API calls a month; 30 days of analytics reports) to the Enterprise tier (10 organisation/environment combinations; 10 billion API calls a year; 12 months of reports). Users nearly unanimously mentioned the high cost, but said that it is worth paying for the value and functionality gained.

Mulesoft pricing is divided into three tiers: Gold, Platinum and Titanium. All three cover base functionality like management, API design and ‘unlimited’ API portals. Connectors require an additional premium. The Platinum and Titanium tiers include enterprise features like external identity management and business groups. Advanced data analytics, log management and end-to-end transaction tracing are limited to the Titanium tier. There are no perpetual licenses with Mulesoft; all models are priced on an annual subscription basis.

Apigee vs Mulesoft – Conclusion

The Apigee vs Mulesoft question is not a simple one to answer. For example, pricing is not an easy comparison to make as neither firm discloses cost information. Potential customers will also struggle to make a decision based on the parent company, as they might do in other technology markets. Google has a reputation for innovation, while Salesforce is firmly entrenched as an enterprise solution, but in reality this has so far had little effect on how the companies are run as business units – although Google has focused on Apigee’s performance as a cloud product.

The choice will eventually come down to technical capabilities, where both Apigee and Mulesoft have their own particular strengths. Apigee is more mature in microservice management, while Mulesoft is ahead in integration capabilities. Both companies are working to close these gaps – see Mulesoft’s October 2019 release and Google’s Anthos platform – so prospective clients will soon need to look even deeper to find differentiation between the two. Ultimately, for general purposes, the choice is likely to be a business decision as much as a technical one.

More information, including interviews and case studies, is available in the APIs Special Report.