Stacking Up On Open Source

Building on WSO2’s cost-saving open-source middleware, Mitra Innovation has developed a construction industry product that emulates the open source model.

In the post-financial crisis world, individuals and businesses are no longer willing to spend big bucks on stuff they can get more cost-efficiently. Open source technology – software whose original source code is made freely available for modification or redistribution – has thrived in this environment, with many companies converting their systems to run on this low-cost option. By providing free-to-use middleware, software company WSO2 has become a respected player in the opensource arena. Using its middleware, Mitra Innovation has built a construction industry product that emulates the latter’s open source model. Building mobile solutions and other products requires integrating many different areas. This makes the technology WSO2 provides free of charge middleware, essential to product building, as it does this integration automatically;without it, developers have to build these connections one by one, which can be very expensive.

A few big companies like IBM and Oracle used to dominate the middlewar e space, with their products requiring million dollar budgets, making integration a major hurdle for innovators with smaller purses. But WSO2’s opensource middleware has made integration a lot more affordable. Hundreds of small-time and enterprise developers are building apps on top of the company’s stack, disrupting the market dominated by a few global names. People can build ambitious products that need even heavy integration, and new products are coming to market faster. Open source technology is also more conducive than proprietary software to patches and quick fixes at times of breach or malfunction because repair teams have easy access to the code.

“WSO2 was the first open source middleware platform that could challenge the big boys,” says Dammika Ganegama, the Managing Director and a Co-Founder of Mitra Innovation, which uses WSO2’s open source middleware to build some of its products. “It fits for us, it fits into innovation because innovation doesn’t mean you need to have a big budget. You should be able to innovate a lot cheaper and faster.”

Today, ten years after WSO2’s founding, enterprises from around the world covering almost every sector from health and finance to retail and telecom depend on the company’s open source platform for their applications. More than 2.2 trillion customer transactions occur annually on WSO2’s cloud and enterprise middleware. eBay uses it to process more than a billion transactions daily. Applications built on its middleware also run transactions for companies like Cisco and Boeing.

Mitra was founded three years ago to help entrepreneurs use innovative technology to incubate companies and bring to market new products. The company saw potential for an open source version of the collaborative platform used in the infrastructure and construction fields to collect, manage and disseminate different sets of data used by project teams, and make it easily and quickly available to all members. These data platforms facilitate collaboration between members and help avoid mistakes.

“We saw a gap between those who construct the facility – the infrastructure side – and those who run the facility – the management side,” says Ashok Suppiah, Mitra’s Chief Executive and a Co-Founder. “Take a project like the Port City. Architects have designed it, construction companies build it and, once it’s completed, a municipal authority will run it. The data for the project needs to be accessible to all these parties, and they have be accessible for a very, very long time because there will be constant repairs and maintenance needs. We
wanted to bring all this data together. We’ve been able to do it because WSO2’s middleware can integrate very quickly and on a large scale.”

Just like in middleware before WSO2 entered that space, these collaborative data platforms in the construction space were dominated by a few big names with big prices. “Other software in this space have very expensive licenses,” says Sudaraka Jayashanka, Mitra’s Chief Architect. “We wanted to do something revolutionary and build something open source so that people can simply download and start running the system.”

UntitledThe result was BiMaaS. Built using WSO2’s middleware and running on it, BiMaaS collects and stores data from different players like the project managers, architects, structural engineers, mechanical engineers and the plumbing team. The platform also ensures that the data is transferred, stored and authorized in compliance with government standards. This way, BiMaaS enables construction companies to adopt the required governance standards without redesigning their existing systems. In standard proprietary software in this space, the licensing is done per seat, which means that a company with eight people needs to purchase eight licenses, which can become very expensive. But with BiMaaS, the software is available to download free of charge, which drastically reduces the user’s cost. A user can log into the system simply using a web browser.

Chief Executive Ashok Suppiah has many years of experience in the infrastructure and construction sectors

Mitra charges users for production support to help them integrate the platform into their systems and for providing a 24/7 customer support desk. The company believes it’s a timely addition to the construction space. “There are only two or three companies that have this software, and we’re the only one that’s open source. So there is clear niche demand for this product,” says Ashok.

“Since WSO2 is a middleware platform, we were able to come up with a solution that’s very robust, lean and scalable,” adds Dammika. “This is absolutely necessary in an environment where data is getting exchanged.”

On top of building technology like BiMaaS, Mitra also continues with its original vision of working with new developers and enterprises. It partners with entrepreneurs, investors and private equity firms to build new products, and works with existing businesses to streamline their processes, set up digital systems to address challenges and transform the way they operate. For instance, the company recently approached a local insurance firm about replacing its current fully manual insurance coverage system with a digital one that would enable real-time pricing and quoting.

While BiMaaS is given high priority now, with an entire research and development team dedicated to it, the company has other focus areas too. It is involved in seven ventures in several countries – including handling the end-to-end requirements from the identification point all the way to ecommerce and production systems for Australia’s second-largest food chain, Eagle Boys – and hopes to increase this to 16 by next year. The ventures are all handled out of a 22-hour, 7-day operation in Moratuwa.