Last week, at the “I Love APIs” conference hosted by Apigee, It was amazing to see companies finally embracing APIs and to learn about how they are monetizing APIs. Technology companies that have grown up in the digital age have long adopted “API first” strategy where API is the primary external interface; and other interfaces, i.e. web and mobile use the API. Non-technology companies (or “digital immigrants” as Chet Kapoor, CEO of Apigee referred to these companies using a term coined by Mark Pensky) have now started to realize the potential of APIs.
Just three years ago, I was having a hard time at my previous employer convincing an executive about the merits of launching an API program. Now, the questions is no longer “Do we need API’s?” but “When/how can we get them?”
At the conference, it was extremely interesting to understand various companies’ motivations for launching an API program. In case of Walgreens, it was the opportunity to reach audiences beyond in-store customers that motivated the development of QuickPrints API. Pearson group opened up their massive content via APIs to allow developers build creative mashups and for OnStar APIs are a natural evolution as the world move towards connected vehicles. Even Kaiser Permanente kicked off its API program earlier this year. In each case, the API users were internal/external developers or technology partners.
It is clear that we are well into the digital economy where applications and APIs are the new currency and developers are a key customer/partner.
At the conference, several companies shared their experience launching API programs including, of course, the challenges they faced. While developing APIs seems straightforward, directly jumping into API development without a cohesive strategy has inherent risks. Companies that don’t have experience with APIs and developer programs should: adopt an iterative process by delivering a small set of APIs, interact with the developers, and incorporate feedback while learning from the process.
Getting developers attention and interest was identified as a key challenge.
Just publishing APIs and hoping developers will come doesn’t work. Using targeted marketing techniques as well as providing appropriate monetary incentives is required. Companies also need to ensure that their APIs are well documented, easy to use, and follow best practices. A few presenters also warned against just putting an API around existing applications. While most companies end up taking this approach for ‘time to market’ reasons, without adequate precautions, this approach can be catastrophic in case the API usage grows unexpectedly.
Companies serious about API program, need to consider investing in the right application architecture, one that is resilient and can scale.
Also last week, Cisco provided additional boost to the application economy by announcing Application-centric infrastructure (ACI). In my opinion, most applications need not really know much about the underlying network as long as it provides connectivity and the desired level of quality of service.
This week promises to be an exciting one as Amazon AWS re:Invent kicks of on Tuesday. Amazon pioneered the “API first” movement with Jeff Bezos’s mandate to developers to expose their data and functionality through service interfaces only. AWS has really jump started the application explosion but we ain’t seen nothing yet!
Next few years will bring exciting innovation as more companies actively participate in the digital economy.
At Nirmata, our mission is to help developers and organizations rapidly innovate and accelerate their journey to the cloud. Our cloud services platform has been designed with “API first” approach to deliver composable, cloud ready, next generation applications. Below is a short explainer video. Let us know what you think and how we can help you thrive in the digital economy.
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