API (Application Programing Interface) is a very old terminology. But it has gained significance in the new era of cloud, which has evolved into an API economy. Today, we see more of ready capabilities being available from multiple providers on the cloud through an API. This enables organizations to focus on consuming them to realize innovative solutions rather than re-invent the same capabilities already being provided. It is driving the disruption as the time to realize the ideas are shortened. The force multiplier of these capabilities being readily available, enhances the creativity and its faster realization into solutions delivering disruption. Uber, Trivago, Expedia, Facebook are all good examples of this ecosystem-based disruption.
Consumerization of Capabilities
It is important to note here that this is a changing paradigm. Capabilities which were realized and made available with a lot of research and investment, and affordable by few, are now becoming available to consume for everyone in a ready manner through the API economy. It changes the balance between large enterprises and smaller entities, as everyone is now on a level playing field to innovate. This also drives richer services as everyone wants to become the ecosystem driver. A person sitting in one corner of the world garage, can suddenly bring about disruption with an innovative solution, as he can ride the open API economy for complex capabilities.
Impact on Enterprises
The API Economy has a lot of impact on the Enterprises. It creates a competitive environment, as well as forces change in the way organizations realize IT solutions. Due to the API economy, problems can be seen in a hybrid mode, wherein organizations can procure some ready capability in the form of an API on the cloud and build some on their own and orchestrate the entire solution. It brings more focus to the solution outcomes rather than building the core capabilities. Organizations also have flexibility to enable smaller groups to build or orchestrate capabilities in an agile manner making it easier to manage.
Key things to watch out
API Economy is creating disruption, but for enterprises, there are a few things to watch out for.
- Security: Security is one of the most critical aspects, as these APIs / services are facing the external world. It also involves data. This needs to be accessed and handled carefully to address the sensitivity of the service.
- Integrating to the Legacy: Enterprises consuming the APIs will need to integrate with backend legacy systems, and hence ensuring accessibility and easy integration to these systems become critical and will call for a sound architecture.
- Service Levels & Support: SLAs for the APIs are very important as they form the core of the solution. Ensuring isolation, high service levels including support, becomes key. Evaluating the needs and choosing the right services addressing the SLA expectations is very critical.
- Orchestration: Realizing solutions using the APIs requires enterprises to orchestrate the services, and also elevates the need for strong ESB / orchestration platforms. Moreover, the APIs could be internal as well as on the cloud, making it more important to have hybrid orchestration capabilities.
- Feature & Release Management: The APIs makes it easy to consume, but if the API provider enhances / changes the features of the APIs, then the solution orchestration layer also needs to be updated. Addressing this as a part of the solution architecture, is very critical for enterprises.
Micro Services – A key enabler
Micro Services are one of the key enablers to the API economy. It helps to create an ecosystem, both internal & external to the organization. The architectural tenets of micro services which enable the realization of API services are:
- It could be written in different programming languages and may use different storage technologies. This allows realizations to be abstracted from the service definitions by housing the service function and its data together, and exposing it in the form of API for consumption.
- Independently deployable by fully automated deployment machinery.
- It provides for services to be resilient to failure, autonomous, Elastic to scale.
With these tenets, the micro services paradigm allows for distributed teams to contribute in a crowd sourcing manner to the API ecosystem for key capabilities in a very fast timeline.
API via Micro Services to deliver AI & Cognitive capabilities
AI & Cognitive is one of the key drivers enabling disruption. It is obvious that this has significance in the API economy. Crowd sourcing of such capabilities by taping smart developers helps organizations to come up with solutions very fast. Solution designs involving NLP, Machine Learning with contextual intelligence delivering captivating experience, are becoming very prominent. Moving fast to tap the competitive edge is very critical. The API ecosystem and democratized development of capabilities are a key enabler. The Cloud API Ecosystem Economy is thus driving the disruption, and we will see many innovative Ecosystem drivers.