Open Source iPaaS Recipes Power Innovation Through Community

Open source code is code that can be studied and adapted, because it is made available to the public. The ethos, and culture around open source development are influential throughout the technology world today. It’s a paradigm that now has influence beyond the sphere of technology and software development. It’s a model for innovation through community.

From humble beginnings at MIT, where programmers wrote code for the printer driver to solve a common problem, open source now powers platforms like GitHub, as well as Workato’s own approach to open source recipe sharing in our online automation library.

A History of Open Source: from Printer Jams to iPaaS

Open-source culture “began” with a printer jam at MIT. Faced with an oft-jammed printer, a resourceful programmer on staff, Richard Stallman, wrote code for the printer driver that would send out a message to the team when the printer was jammed: “The printer is jammed, please fix it.” That way, the printer could unjammed as soon as possible. Stallman would later create GNU, a clone of the Unix language that was open-source and offered transparency to users. Stallman received some kickback from companies throughout his career of sharing source code. His tone was playful- for example, he made playful jabs at the idea of a “copyright” by releasing a license called a “copyleft” for GNU.

Stallman blurred the ideological boundaries of ownership, and called attention to the subtle difference between something that’s “free” as in liberated, or “free” as in zero price. For example, wild grasses are both liberated and zero price. Museums are often zero-cost, but the Mona Lisa is not- nor can the Mona Lisa leave the wall on which it hangs. Who owns knowledge? If a professor teaches Student A calculus and Student A teaches his friend Student B, does Student A owe the professor the cost of a semester of school? 

“What is currently compelling is our pervasive cybernetic mode, which plunks copyright into mythology, makes origins a romantic notion, and pushes creativity outside the self. Remake, reuse, reassemble, recombine – that’s the way to go.” – Elaine Sturtevant, commenting on her 2012 retrospective at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Today, open-source development is still used and valued, because it “crowd-sources” the burden of testing for bugs and cracks in security, and it “promotes stability, security, and innovation”, according to Red Hat, a notable open-source software company. 

Open-Source for iPaaS

Although Workato’s iPaaS development platform is codeless, many of the developmental advantages that apply to open-source software also apply to open-source iPaaS recipes. To enable an open-source development environment at Workato, we’ve given companies that use Workato recipes the opportunity to contribute their recipes to our online “automation library”, or community recipe pool. Workato’s proprietary recipe-cloning technology makes it possible to do this because, the logic and the schema of the recipes are distinct.

Inside Workato’s Proprietary Recipe-Cloning Technology

Without recipe-sharing, each project starts from Square 1: designing the first principles of the automation. Some companies have tried offering portfolios of automation templates, but these tend to fail for a variety of reasons: 

  • Building a managed portfolio of templates is time-consuming and expensive.
  • The form of a template is rigid, and doesn’t offer businesses enough freedom for customization.
  • Data and logic schema are undifferentiated in the template; companies may require custom schema, and if that schema is different than the template’s, the template won’t work. 

To create a successful integration community, Workato designed a versioning process for integrations that differentiates between logic changes and schema changes. That way, if you’re developing a recipe and want to use a clone of a community recipe, you can adjust the recipe to work with your app schema. The Workato platform assists with the process of schema adjustment, by pointing out any schema requirements that haven’t been satisfied and recommending adjustments. 

When users opt to have their recipes cloned to be filed in the library and versioned by other users, the recipe author’s proprietary information is wiped from the recipe for security.

Machine Learning Powers “Recipe IQ”

RecipeIQ is a machine learning feature that’s built into the Workato recipe-building platform to power intelligent automation. As you’re building a recipe, it will scan the 4000ish recipes in the community recipe pool and figure out what the next step would likely be in the automation that you’re creating, for example, it might assess the steps that you’ve built so far in your recipe and suggest “most people usually connect to Netsuite next.”

RecipeIQ processes millions upon millions of events, metadata elements, and automation patterns, so it has a strong statistical pool to draw on when suggesting steps for automations. As business users build recipes, the RecipeIQ integrates naturally into the developmental flow. It may recommend actions, fields, auto group-mapping (for example, of customer data from Netsuite to Salesforce), auto-validation of mappings, or logical constructs. 

The Advantages of Open-Source Recipe Building for Business Users

In addition to the time-saving benefits offered by the machine learning and community-powered RecipeIQ, creating an open-source community ethos for iPaaS also saves business users time, facilitates a more expeditious deployment of integrations and automations, and can stimulate the creativity of users to utilize the platform to a fuller extent of its potential. 

Gene Escobar of Semi noted, while addressing a group of peers, that Workato’s automation library was beneficial to Semi as they were creating recipes for their integrations: 

“Some of the things that helped, or accelerated our process were the existing recipes in Workato. There’s a community library of integrations within Workato that allowed us to copy and paste practically. The integration from Netsuite into whatever. They weren’t exactly what we needed , but you can tailor to what you do. The documentation was really excellent, which helped. The onboarding process [with Workato] was something I had never experienced before. You know, I have to be really honest about this. They were really on top of everything. […]They are the champions. Real-time support was really helpful to work through obstacles.” -Gene Escobar, Semi

Working together to close the gap between what we’re capable of imagining and what we imagine

Productivity in economics is defined as the amount of output generated per unit of input, often calculated as the GDP per hours worked. Solow’s Productivity Paradox famously noted that productivity growth has not exactly hit a one-way ramp skyward from the X-axis since computing power was introduced into the economy; in fact, productivity growth in many first-world countries remains unthrillingly stagnant. 

According to a report published to PRNewswire by The Conference Board, a non-profit research group, global growth in output per worker was down in 2018 compared to 2017, extending the downward trend in global labor productivity growth from an average annual rate of 2.9 percent between 2000-2007 to 2.3 percent between 2010-2017.”  

“These latest numbers dash our hopes that at least some of the productivity recovery since 2016 could be sustained and further strengthened in 2018 and 2019,” said Bart van Ark, Global Chief Economist of The Conference Board. “The long-awaited productivity effects from digital transformation are still too small to see reflected in a lasting improvement at the macroeconomic level.”

Some may argue that the faculties of computational power are concentrated in the hands of a small group of individuals and entities, and that the true power of the technology has not become universally pervasive throughout the economy. Others may point out that if an auto worker is laid off in favor of a machine, though the CEO of the company that bought the machines may profit, the market will take a hit as workers suffer from unemployment, leading to a dispersal of economic slow-down throughout the economy at large, especially for producers and service-providers whose products and services cater to the needs of a newly unemployed sector of the working class. 

Stallman’s visionary belief in democratizing access to new forms of knowledge is a light in the tunnel for innovators and those who seek to efficiently build tools and make progress with new resources, such as iPaaS recipe-building. Though we offer companies the option to keep their recipes out of the automation library, we are also proud to offer our iPaaS users the option to securely share their recipes and reap the benefits from building new knowledge on a shared base of existing knowledge. 

When you buy a bag of lentils, it tells you on the side of the bag how to cook the lentils. At Workato, we feel that sharing recipes makes for a better product. To learn more about our automation library and iPaaS platform, request a demo from our team. 

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