The API

Once upon a time, actually not so long ago, software programmers made use of a programming interface called an API, which is an Application Programming Interface, which is also an interface that the programmers made use of to get their part of the program to speak to another program. The programmers of the other program, would have come up with a set of rules that needed to be followed by anyone wanting to talk to their program. These rules would then be used to build a piece of code that another piece of code could call making use of the set of rules specified by the first piece of code.

If all that has confused you a bit, don’t worry. An API is simply a programming interface that another program can use to communicate with it. It is an interface between different software programs and facilitates their interaction, just like a user interface allows for the interaction between humans and computers.

The API economy

Today, the awareness has spread beyond just the programmers, and it has become a means of generating revenue for an organization. This has been largely due to the social, mobile and cloud technologies that have made great advances in the last few years. The business leaders are generating revenue by exposing APIs as business building blocks for third party applications.

Some examples of companies that have used this very effectively are Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Google, SalesForce.com. Industry examples include Banks, Insurance companies, Content Providers, Healthcare providers, online marketplaces, logistics providers etc. etc.

The term used to describe this is the API economy (application programming interface economy).

A growing trend in the industry is that more and more CIOs are going to be tasked with developing new business models that can be built using existing and/or new IT platforms. This has brought pressure on them to think more like business strategists than IT strategists, and they need to launch newer business models to keep their companies competitive. The main weapon they have in their arsenal to help achieve this is the API. This is what will make the digital businesses competitive in today’s world.

API Management

The API economy is based on the management of the whole API lifecycle which includes managing an API from start to finish, from strategy, design, deployment, advanced support and security to versioning and eventual retirement of the API.

The purpose of an API management platform is to allow developer communities and developers in organization to expose their business services securely as APIs. The platform provides for a self-service portal that will allow the developers to develop, publish, and manage their APIs. The organizations can also manage & monitor the entire API platform using the API management platform.

This makes it very simple for an organization to create and manage the APIs that they wish to expose, as now their developers can compose new APIs, import APIs, or discover APIs. As security is a major concern for everyone, it becomes easy to specify security & API behaviour and manage it. It also provides for versioning of APIs.  The platform will also allow the business to create a plan, add API resources, choose rate limits which means specify the number of calls that can be made to each of the APIs in a given time period. They can test the APIs and stage it in runtime environment to be able to test and monitor performance. The usage of the APIs can be analysed by using the tools provided by the platform. The Admins can use a management console to monitor the health of the system resources.

There are many providers out there who provide API management platforms, an analysis and comparison of which is outside the scope of this post. Be aware that they are available and your business can monetize the services that you build by exposing your APIs and expanding your eco-system. Eco-systems are a critical component in today’s digital business landscape.

So go ahead, make that API. And expose it.

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