Monday, June 18, 2018

Building Workflows should be easy - and they will be...with Zenaton!

This blog post was co-authored with Adrian Colyer, Venture Partner and former CTO of Pivotal
Nearly all businesses have process-related workflows that govern how their users interact with their service or automate internal tasks...and they are painful to code and even more painful to test. Hopefully things will change soon with Zenaton, the newest addition to the Accel family. We are joined in this seed round by our friends at Point9.
For instance, let’s suppose, in the light of the GDPR legislation a company wants to send a series of emails over a period of a few weeks, reminding people to explicitly opt-in to receive communications, so it can record their consent. Obviously, the emails should stop if consent is given at any point in time. In many cases the implementation will involve database changes, scheduled tasks, and cumbersome logic to tie it all together. What should be a simple workflow ends up creating a mess!
There are software applications, or workflow engines, that have been created to manage business processes. So, why does this happen? Because many existing workflow engines are hard to use, and it's easier for a developer to hack something together themselves. After experiencing this issue many times over, the Zenaton team - Louis Cibot and Gilles Barbier - had had enough. They built a workflow service designed to delight developers with a simple and easy to use API. It's just way easier to code a workflow using Zenaton than it is to roll your own, and when it comes to developers, ease of use is incredibly important.
As we got to know Zenaton, we spoke with many companies whose teams who were extremely pleased with the simplification in their codebases and the speed with which they could make progress: focusing on their business processes, and not on the intricacies of long-running asynchronous workflow management. You'd have to prize Zenaton out of their cold dead hands before they'd give up on this kind of improvement.
With Zenaton, the code looks like the design. The implementation of the workflow is all in one place, with a straightforward mapping to the business process. The Zenaton service orchestrates the workflow for you, invoking the individual flow steps as tasks that run within your own environment.

None of that counts for anything of course if the backend workflow engine isn't up to scratch. The Zenaton team have spent a lot of effort on this and have built a robust platform on top of the Erlang Virtual Machine, well known for running distributed and fault-tolerant systems (Erlang is a programming language used to build massively scalable soft real-time systems with high availability requirements). It's all made available as a scalable service so there are no setup costs, and no operational overheads.
Zenaton is currently in closed beta and will launch in the coming weeks. It has clients for Node and PHP, with Python, Ruby, and Java in the works.
We believe that any developer who wants to spend more time working on business features and less time solving purely technical issues will love Zenaton. We are excited to back Gilles and Louis, as they roll out their platform and put it into the hands of developers around the world. We are big believers in massive growth of dev tools and the API economy and see Zenaton in the continuity of previous Accel investments like Atlassian, Algolia and Segment.

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