Application programming interfaces (APIs) are now a well-known concept in application integration. But people forget that they were only introduced in 2000 when companies like Salesforce, eBay and Amazon launched. Since then APIs have become indispensable for various apps, particularly mobile, SaaS and cloud, and customers have come to expect integration via APIs. The Flowgear platform provides support for the full API lifecycle. We thought we would help developers starting on an API project with some tips on what to do.
What is an API?
An API is an interface that allows software programs to interact with each other. APIs define the rules and data structures that should be defined so that applications can communicate.
The importance of APIs
No matter whether your role is to manage applications or develop them, you know that you have to at least consider an API strategy for the software you manage. According to Programmable Web’s API directory, there are over 16000 APIs published (as of this date), and that number is growing by several thousand every year.
The reason why APIs are growing in popularity is because businesses and their systems are increasingly being connected electronically. APIs make the process of integrating with customers, suppliers and other participants in your ecosystem easier – and making your business easy to connect with is important. For example, Amazon’s Marketplace Web Service (Amazon MWS) has publicly available APIs which help Amazon sellers to programmatically exchange data on items like listings, orders, payments and reports. This has attracted over 2 million sellers to MWS.
APIs are not just a ‘nice to have’ feature any more. Their development and use needs to be managed as an important IT and business asset.
Benefits of APIs
The main benefit of APIs is that they provide a structured form of integration, and can ensure business logic and rule validation is applied.
From a technical perspective, benefits include:
- if you manage your APIs correctly, they provide compatibility for different versions of your system,
- they make it easier to call routines remotely,
- they are stateless, so web services can treat each method request independently, and the server does not need not to maintain client’s previous interactions. This is the only way to scale to millions of concurrent users.
On the business side, APIs can:
- handle a wide range of use cases, opening opportunities for new markets
- enable an organization to unlock its digital business value,
- executives can discuss and promote the API’s without worrying about what they are or how they work.