When I made my 2013 predictions for the realm of APIs, my premise was that API adoption and use was still a relatively nascent area, but one about to explode once smart people figured out its potential. I was certainly spot-on in that regard, but few believed me when I suggested that the API Economy was about to get as vibrant as it did. It may be safe to say that 2013 was the year that APIs really caught the business world’s attention.
In these past 12 months, we’ve seen major acquisitions of API enablement companies, new industry conferences dedicated to the business of APIs, and talk of API management is on the lips of leading business executives. Untold billions of dollars have been transacted, all enabled by APIs, and innovation is making the world an easier place to transact as a result of applications, mash-ups and APIs.
As I predicted, the discussion and decision-making about how to use APIs to increase customer and user engagement through channels has moved to now include both the technical and business sides of an organisation.
It’s quite clear that APIs are getting the attention they deserve and that smart business people recognise that their companies and organisations had either take advantage of what APIs have to offer, or await the fate of rapid obsolescence. In 2014, we are going to see a huge leap forward in how APIs are put to use to drive innovation and help organisations be more efficient and profitable.
In some cases this will happen on top of existing technologies and business practices. But the fun will happen because of the innovation that will come out of all that API development. One could say that the streets have been paved, and now it’s time to start putting people on the road. I see these as the key trends for the coming year:
Cloud & Mobile = API Ownership
We see more IT and product development teams dedicated to API development to create and extend applications on top of, and through, cloud, SaaS and mobile. The reason is the realisation that cloud is not just a platform, but an enabler. And when APIs work through the cloud, their ability to connect and deliver is made exponentially easier than having to do it through traditional platforms.
Even with all the talk of the API Economy, many IT organisations neglected the capabilities of APIs. Call it the “Big Wake Up”, perhaps, but there are dramatic efforts being made to ensure that organizations use the tools at their disposal to leverage cloud and mobile to create ecosystems of stakeholders.
Rapid Channel Development
Until now, APIs have been seen as a mechanism to get eyeballs and users. In 2014, APIs will be recognised for their ability to drive channels of partners, users, customers and all types of stakeholders. This will put them into an ecosystem of people and organisations that encourage more business connectivity and transactions.
The term “API Economy” has seemed to many like a marketing brand, but when they put together the pieces to develop revenue-generating channels through strategic API management, they’ll see that truly, an economy forms as a result of the simple work of this software tool.
Massive API Adoption
In 2013, a lot of new faces were talking about APIs and how they would use them, but it still remained primarily the domain of the big brands (Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, etc). But the business imperatives are clear and undeniable – businesses that want to grow and leverage the work of partners and others in their ecosystem will begin API development and adoption.
We’re starting to see it more and more in major industries like retail, transportation, telco and finance, and smart organisations recognise that the best way to increase reach and profit is by developing and executing an accessible API strategy.
The continued app explosion: Use of Web sites as a vehicle for content, commerce and data may not decrease anytime soon, but there is a massive rise in the use of apps to acquire information and perform transactions. Our customers are creating unique applications made up of vast networks of functionality from partners and other stakeholders.
The thing that enables this interconnectivity among apps is APIs. We are going to see a much heavier emphasis on apps because of the competitive advantage they offer: data can be customised and optimised, depending on the user need. And APIs will be driving this.
SOA & APIs: Together Again (And Always)
SOA started the whole thing, and it continues to be a services foundation. But at the end of the day, all we’re trying to do is connect data and services. Operationally there are not many differences between APIs and SOA, but in practice, we see APIs being adopted at a fast rate, mainly because of their flexibility, openness, and ease of integration.
We are going to see more recognition that SOA and APIs are complementary, and that for one to be successful, the other needs to be used. Organisations with a strong SOA foundation will recognize the ease with which they can extend services through development of APIs.
Software-Defined Data Centres Will Rely On APIs
Big data, cloud, virtualisation; the buzzwords are, in fact, very real, but they also can only exist if there’s organistion to how they’re accessed, used and managed. So in order to enable organisations to make use of the massive amounts of data available to them, they rely on software-driven controllers that manage the hardware that stores, integrates and transports all this data and makes it available.
That alone is impressive. But where things will get interesting in 2014 is with smart organisations adopting an API-based platform for their datacentres so they can realize cost and resource efficiencies from their cloud initiatives, and gain greater control of their infrastructure resources. They will recognise a higher degree of security optimization and a more measured approach to risk management.
APIs Drive Mobile Apps
We’re seeing massive usage numbers for APIs (both by users and developers), and we’re seeing much of that usage recently being focused on translation and integration of data for mobile devices. I suspect that there will an increased focus among developers to use APIs to bring apps to users’ smart phones and tablets, and that this will rise to the top of the “to do” list of many CIOs.
Users are demanding it more than ever, and APIs are enabling a much faster path to all that data. With the right levels of security and management, we are going to see enterprises dramatically increase connection points with customers and partners, as well as the financial upside that comes with that.
API security will take center stage: APIs are enabling a mind-boggling amount of data to be transmitted around the Web. Ensuring that all those transactions happen securely and can be managed effectively will result in a much deeper focus on API security.
Consider too the implications of the recent NSA spying imbroglio and some well-publicized corporate security leaks that happened during 2013. The rub is no longer between whether or not to let others access your data through APIs – it’s clear that progressive companies NEED to do that. The focus now will be on securing that data.
Internet Of Things Will Become The API Of Things
IoT is rapidly becoming THE buzz-term-du-jour, but it implies a vastly different way of conducting business, both personal and enterprise. It dramatically changes the customer experience, and that experience IS the company’s brand. At the heart of the IoT concept is really just a bunch of APIs connecting with each other and benefitting from the idea of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
For all those things to be connected, they need a common tool to open the door and allow data to be moved and acted on. But to benefit from IoT, APIs will need to be created, distributed and used intelligently and according to smart business strategies.
In 2014, we’ll see that companies who distribute their APIs widely, and use their APIs as a data channel (and not just as a tool for getting more eyeballs) will benefit most. In the coming year, the bandwagon will get very, very crowded, as consumer companies will try to leverage their internal and enterprise data into something usable and accessible. That bandwagon will also be filled with some incredibly interesting business opportunities.
We see that, as a way to leverage the work being done by others in a vertical, companies will look to use APIs to create massively connected apps and mash-ups. So rather than just a banking app, it’s more powerful to create an app that combines the comprehensive needs of someone needing a loan: application, credit report, financing, delivery, all combined into a single app.
Whereas some might have been leery of combining their capabilities with those of competitors, they are starting to recognise that serving the customer with the best experience is what is most beneficial to their business. Nothing can enable that as efficiently as an API, and the recognition of such is finally getting the attention it deserves.
Evolution Of REST (And Beyond)
I have long been a proponent of REST as a protocol for facilitating connections among data and services, but I’m also aware of its limitations. I expect to see the emergence of new standards like WADL, Swagger, RAML and others, all due to their flexibility and that these will fill in holes left by REST and the deficiencies it has with defining service descriptions.
We will also see REST being replaced by MQTT for specific use case in Mobile and IoT and with Web sockets for real time applications. In all these cases you will need to apply the SOA governance principles as you do today for SOA and APIs.