Why APIs are Core to a Successful Digital Transformation
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Why APIs are Core to a Successful Digital Transformation

author By Srinidhi Mar 23, 2021
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There are numerous reasons why organizations are accelerating their digital roadmaps. One of the main reasons is that customers are now accustomed to digital-first experiences after successive periods  of lockdown imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, they have come to expect a better standard of experience from the organizations they engage with. This means organizations are under immense pressure to digitize services swiftly and at scale, to fulfill the increasing customer demands and create fresh revenue streams.

It has conventionally fallen on the information technology departments to offer these services and transformation projects. However, overstrained IT teams were already struggling to meet the demands even before COVID-19 had arrived. Issues like poorly-connected systems, budgetary challenges, and a lack of skills or experience inside IT teams are all main barriers delaying digital transformation initiatives. 

This is only set to get worse as the number of projects goes on to rise. As a result, in the year ahead, organizations are increasingly seeking a new path to accelerate digital transformation.

For doing this, organizations will need to embrace a digital-ready culture and scale business to develop their  own connected experiences to fulfill the rising customer expectations. Employees will hence require the ability to integrate systems, unify data and offer personalized experiences, without high-reliability on  writing multiple lines of code or having specialist skills. This shows that 2021 and the years to come are going to be the time of the API (Application Programming Interface), as businesses shift to new operating models for IT innovation.

A Quick Glance at API

API is a system of resources and tools in an operating system allowing developers to create software applications. You can call it a bunch of functions that allow you to access the data and services of an application through a programming language. API helps a developer to interact with a particular software or platform. It also enables the communication between applications or software.

In other words, API is a flexible and efficient instrument for both data exchange and functionality sharing. With APIs, developers can reduce both development time and cost, while mitigating the risk of errors.

In the past decade, APIs have played an important role in the development of mobile applications and the modern web because of constant pressure to launch applications into the market. 

 

The acceptance of third-party APIs is mainly driven by C-level digital transformation initiatives and the increasing need to find the right expertise, owing to the increasingly complicated application. 

As an example, an increasing number of consumers are expecting telecom services to be rooted in a range of platforms like mobile devices, games consoles, and web browsers. The ongoing growth in mobile and web technologies is even creating competition from new sources since hardware and software suppliers growingly embed services in their offerings e.g.: Facetime on the iPhone.

To stay competitive in this context, telecom companies are using APIs to grow their agility and the speed with which they adapt to technological change. With opening up services for reuse across manifold ecosystems, APIs are extensively simplifying the process of delivering services through mobile networks and the web.

The acceptance of API is on the rise across the telecom sector, as it offers access to niche and advanced functionalities to businesses of all sizes. Besides, as identity, payment, and communications are core requirements of customer-facing applications the requirement for telecom API is on the constant rise.

The telecom sector has undergone a tectonic shift from the hardware space to the software space mainly driven by API. Cloud communication platforms are at the frontline of the telecom API offering SMS, chat, video, voice, etc. Various companies in the current telecom API market are focusing on the development of API to allow the integration of their services inside programs and applications. 

Value of APIs for Organizations

To understand the value of an API, here is an example of a website. When a user requests a website page, the data that is shown is raw. It is an API request and not that of a website page request. So, as the user asks for a web page, the system offers a Web API. The web APIs are in the shape of raw codes like XML or JSON files. These are not user-friendly. Hence, what you receive is not the type of webpage you were expecting.

Thus, most of the developers use a programming language that can analyze JSON and XML files. In a normal instance, a website would have sent back HTML, CSS, and Javascript to render a webpage with a good browser. But, with web APIs, one needs more profound documentation such as JSON.

Hence, no matter it is your standard website or an application, you need an API for your consumers and users to access your database. This way, you can make the interaction between two components of your internal structure more efficient for better performance.

Once organizations have access to data and functions through APIs, it empowers them to make smarter moves, improve customer satisfaction, drive innovation, and recognize new areas of business. Moreover, organizations that implement and leverage APIs can expect to get the following benefits: 

  • Accelerated Development

APIs streamline otherwise complex connections, making it easier for developers to respond fast to changing needs, and finally accelerating the development cycle.

  • Reusability

You can reuse API designs like building blocks, supporting scalability, and also expediting the development procedure.

  • Automation

APIs allow automation by simplifying communication between applications and services, removing the need for manual procedures, faxes, phone calls, and time-consuming point-to-point integrations.

  •  Innovation

Custom integration between various applications can be pricy and time-consuming to form and maintain. The lower cost and ease of APIs foster experimentation and innovation.

  • Collaboration

In many instances, internal applications require to connect with external applications or systems. APIs permit collaboration with third parties by serving as an easy interface between applications both inside and outside the network, which was not initially designed to communicate, supporting partnerships that would otherwise not be imaginable.

One of the popular companies that are built on a foundation of APIs is Uber. In the absence of Uber’s API connection to Twilio (the messaging platform) or Google Maps, the company would have never come into existence. Even though Uber depended heavily on APIs to get up to speed, it has now developed its API for developers. Asset 97-1

The Emergence of API Culture

Businesses are leveraging APIs to expose data and digital capabilities in a consumable and reusable manner. This is expanding the rise of a composable enterprise model that  allows businesses to become more agile. Organizations can quickly create new digital solutions from the huge number of existing capabilities that they have at their disposal, rather than being developed from scratch every time.

A future-ready built using APIs ensures that businesses can respond more readily to alterations in market conditions, technology disruption, and business demands.

How can API Help Solve the Problem? 

From a business perspective, APIs allow end-users to use and customize data to seek solutions for complex business problems. APIs are becoming the main ingredient to bridge the gap between addressing customer needs (marketing) and delivering digital portals that grow businesses (engineering). Ultimately, if your business can successfully merge both efforts, it is sure to get a distinguished competitive advantage in this growingly digital economy.

Moreover, a point-to-point integration approach can work for a business that has only a few applications. But imagine your business with an ecosystem of more than one thousand applications. In this instance, point-to-point integration could prove to be a nightmare because it would waste time and resources in deployments across cloud and on-premise. Hence, this can hamper the overall productivity in your day-to-day work.

Here, to innovate faster, developers require access to reusable components like APIs that enable them to discover, associate, and reuse software assets. APIs can work like messengers running back and forth between databases, applications, and devices. Hence, making it all convenient for businesses to unlock data inside existing systems and link that data to other applicable systems.

Application Integration  

There are no limits to the possible uses of APIs. Whether you talk about sensors on the motorway, machine data, containers in shipping, or railway trains, they all can transfer data and communicate with the external world via APIs. You can control the intelligent household appliances through applications, desktops can be interlaced into a communicating IT infrastructure, and external partners can get connected and integrated through APIs. The world of APIs is pushing boundaries and forming new possibilities in the contemporary age of digitalization. But, how is it possible that you collect all this data and use it from different sources, through different connections, and in dissimilar formats? Well, the key lies in API integration.

API integration is the process of connecting two or more applications through their APIs for executing a joint function. The link gets created through the API layer of each application so that they can communicate with one another. API integration promises that applications that are connected represent the most conversant data while providing data integrity across a technology stack without worrying about versioning. Some API management solutions are available pre-installed with out-of-the-box integrations, whereas others need more complex integrations.

API integration is generally done through integration middleware solutions that focus on connecting different applications. Hence, two categories of tools have emerged to solve diverse API management use cases. Lightweight tools mostly offer simple mapping between applications. Enterprise products are known for deeper capabilities libraries and often require skillful users and coding.

System Interoperability  

Interoperability allows the different information technology systems and software applications to communicate, exchange data, and use the data that has already been exchanged. APIs permit software applications to share data, appeal business logic, or perform an action (like send a notification, map data, and start a workflow).

APIs are everywhere in most parts of modern-day life. Huge consumer brands like Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, and Google all have considerable APIs that allow developers to access information, so they can construct new applications. They allow access to data, without offering how that data is released, hence, protecting the source code of the application.

Moreover, APIs offer reusable and well-understood connectivity protocols, data models, authentication frameworks, and design patterns. Historically developers had to reinvent the controls and repeat work for each new integration to accomplish this connectivity. The knowledge, time, and effort needed to do this created obstacles.  Complexities and costs were included in any upgrades, so legacy systems stayed well past their best.  

Though a highly interconnected DXP that shares data and functionality flawlessly is ideal, it can be hard to avoid data silos without a standardized way of communicating. It is the reason why APIs enable massive interoperability amongst software.

Most of the modern applications now expose APIs that enable developers to pull and push data from one system to another conveniently. It means any API-driven CMS is all set to connect with most software out-of-the-box. API-driven or headless CMSs can deliver experiences to approximately any device or channel that emerges. It makes them highly interoperable with both backend and frontend systems.

Role of API Management

API Management is the procedure of distributing, controlling, and analyzing the APIs that link applications and data across on-premise and cloud systems. API management allows organizations to create or use others’ APIs to supervise the activity and ensure developer requirements are fulfilled. The procedure includes centralizing control of an API program with the help of access controls, developer workflows, and analytics. The common API management abilities include developer portal, API gateway, API lifecycle management, and API analytics.

In other words, API management platforms offer you a wide range of features that aid you with almost every aspect of the API journey right from development through to production, monitoring, and overall support.

Microservices Architecture with APIs 

The IT industry is constantly evolving, making it rather tricky how future technological innovations could affect your application. Although this might be a prime concern with applications based on monolithic architectures, microservices are not as vulnerable to constant changes. 

As fresh and updated technologies are made available, if your organization depends on microservice architecture, you can simply replace, upgrade, or add fresh microservices instead of having to redesign the whole application.

In a microservice architecture, the UI mostly connects with multiple microservices. If the microservices are eventually grained (FaaS), the client may require to connect with lots of microservices, which gets chatty and challenging. Also, the services, encompassing their APIs, can grow. Large enterprises may like to have other cross-cutting concerns (SSL termination, authorization, authentication, throttling, logging, etc.).

One possible way in which you can solve these issues is to employ API Gateway. API Gateway stays between the client APP and the backend microservices and works like frontage. This can act as a reverse proxy, directing the client request to the suitable backend microservice. It can even support the client requests blowing-out to multiple microservices and then return the combined responses to the client. It also supports essential cross-cutting concerns.

Another challenge that microservices architecture throws at you is how to coordinate the many quickly changing microservices. Here, API management offers the necessary discovery mechanisms to ensure that you can find the available microservices, and you can share the documentation on how to use them through the developer portal.

The Need of Securing Your APIs 

In case you are like many organizations, you are leveraging APIs to advance your digital transformation initiatives and experience new opportunities. But all of those APIs are also fresh entry points into the most sensitive data of your organization, making it convenient for hackers and botnets to steal and operate critical information. 

Since it is arguably domineering for organizations to expose their services via APIs to stay relevant and competitive today, they must do so securely, by controlling who accesses APIs, monitoring and even managing how APIs are employed, deploying functionality that can spot doubtful behavior and otherwise make monitoring data actionable, and more.

These are the concepts that depend on visibility into API traffic, but in too many instances, organizations simply do not have insight into what is getting exposed to whom. They have no idea what is happening with the data, and also, what controls are in place across the organization.

Here Apigee API management can help you. It permits the developers to secure, scale, manage, and analyze their APIs and API traffic. Furthermore, Apigee owns a whole OAuth module built into the platform that permits you to guard your APIs using OAuth 2.0 which is turning out to be the industry standard. The developer portal possesses a rationalized way of assigning OAuth client credentials and confirming them. You can easily integrate this with your OAuth identity provider, in case required.

Similarly, an Apigee operations team can develop shared flows in Apigee to have a solid security policy once and then have all APIs call that as part of their transaction flow. Besides, you can apply the same shared flows on the environment level to form a higher level of governance posture. So, the developers are no longer responsible for the external security and authentication or authorization, which helps them concentrate better on functionality. Apigee even has support for JWT and 2 Way SSL.

 

With the growing application economy, there is an enhanced focus on digital transformation. And APIs are turning out to be a key enabler in developing secure communication with microservices. So, whether you are thinking of venturing into the API world for digital transformation or you want to leverage Apigee API management in your organization; Srijan can help. Get in touch with our team to discuss the roadmap for your business today!

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