APIs-Key Technology for Business Competitiveness

By CIOReview | Thursday, March 9, 2017
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Businesses today are increasingly leveraging APIs for their software development initiatives. Also dubbed as a developer’s UI, APIs are ideally designed to be simple, intuitive and consistent to enable better developer experiences. Additionally, the availability of API management platforms today makes it easier for businesses to deploy APIs. This increased reliance on API has eventually resulted in the accumulation of hundreds of APIs within the organizations APIs have gained a reputation to assist coders to effortlessly implement functionalities and bring in data from third party sources. The integration support offered by APIs extends to seamless interaction between applications. Furthermore, APIs play an instrumental role in streamlining the software development process so that the developers have the option of skipping the usual "building from the scratch" process. Also, the API owner can create specifications to regulate the permissible uses for the API.  

APIs or SOA?

The tug-of-war between API loyalists and SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) purists has given rise to a plethora of differing opinions. While the API supporters want to move away from SOA, the SOA camp claims that APIs are just an extension of SOA. Although APIs and SOA essentially have the same basic architectural principles, the former is more open and supports human-readable formats (JSON). From an external consumption perspective, APIs are more manageable and allow business users to brand and market them as products.

Although SOA is often associated with web services, it continues to be an architectural style for software design. Architecture Styles like Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Representational State Transfer (REST) have always been associated with web services, but web services use the architecture as an API style. While REST often limits the complexity of interactions, API management tools make it easier for developers to test them readily on a portal.

RESTful Complexity and Benefits

REST systems leverage a stateless protocol and standard operations for accelerated performance, reliability, and growth of the web applications. The option to re-use components that do not interfere with processes when the system is running makes it quite appealing to developers. Furthermore, RESTful API or RESTful web services allow requesting systems to access and manipulate textual representations of web resources with the help of a pre-defined set of stateless operations. RESTful web services are designed to enable uncomplicated interactions like create, read, update, and delete. Although enterprises may find ways to implement complex interactions, it will be restricted by the limitations imposed by REST and JSON. A key advantage of selecting RESTful APIs over a Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) is the consumption of lesser bandwidth over the internet. While SOAP relies heavily on XML to provide messaging services and uses multiple communication protocols—HTTP, SMTP, or FTP—REST supports different formats and uses existing HTTP actions and methods. With a quicker learning curve and no requirement for third party tools to access REST web services, it is the ideal option to develop complex APIs. Popular websites such as Amazon, Google, LinkedIn and Twitter are known to use RESTful API. Also RESTful APIs are chosen over other web services to allow users connect and interact with cloud services.

The proliferation of web services in the software development space occurred in an era where cross-vendor interoperability and generic software development were the norm. Today, in a business landscape dominated by real-time processes, REST API management tools provide a rich user interface while simplifying integration architectures and techniques.