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Roberto Medrano

There used to be armies of developers who defined themselves as “integration experts”; they were tasked with doing the hands-on work of IT bartending. In essence, they had to blend different applications together so they produced a result that was greater than the sum of their parts. There were the old guards who dealt in Oracle databases and connected data stored within HR, manufacturing and CRM applications. More recently, developers look to integrate with better use of APIs so they can mashup Google maps with consumer shopping apps.

There is a distinction now (and whether or not it is an advantage remains to be seen) between traditional apps and those that reside and operate in the cloud. Some make the argument that application development with cloud-based APIs makes things easier. We believe that is true, but we also recognize that the cloud is simply a platform on which data transactions occur. If your business runs with on-premise apps, then cloud application development may be worth a look, but we don’t necessarily think you need to make a change. Where it does become a notable and meaningful change is for developers, and we’ll take a look at how API development in the cloud has fostered better, faster and more valuable connection among apps and transmission of data.

SOA establishes the foundation

The job of integration was made easier for those who worked with service-oriented architectures. Services could be partitioned, secured and transacted in relatively easy fashion, and created more opportunities for developers who sought to enhance and speed their application development work. Nowadays, the trend has evolved to using APIs to integrate data and enhance the ability to perform transactions.

The good news for those who have adopted a services-base environment is that their architecture is prepared for data to integrate and communicate. APIs create the open exchange of that data, and they are designed to easily capture and transmit your application data. This automatically gives applications enhanced functionality because with each new application they can integrate and communicate with, the value of the data that’s being distributed is exponentially higher. The even better news is that, for companies who operate their IT in the cloud, their SOA foundation will make API adoption all the easier. Also the good news is that you can use the same products for both web services and APIs. We have recently published several papers and webinars about the SOA and API management convergence and the benefits of a single unified solution.

Application development and the cloud

Here’s the key part of why the cloud is such an important element of SOA and API convergence: if provides an easy to use and manage platform to create channels for distributing data. Because applications are existing and operating in the cloud, developers do not need to get smart on the details of platform specificity, and that frees their time to take advantage of the API to do the work of cross-platform interfaces. And because most cloud-focused APIs rely on REST to expose and avail their data, the amount of work required by the developer to comply with application-specific elements is dramatically reduced.

Cloud APIs generally have the advantage of bypassing the complexities that are often unknowingly built into enterprise applications. In a cloud environment, the focus is different, and the API goes directly to back-end processes where the action is happening. By virtue of the openness provided in this way, the API is the perfect conduit to get the user directly to the data that he wants.

Consider too the elements of granularity that can come with cloud development; this is an advantage because your application data can be exposed to so many more data layers, data repositories and apps that can manipulate and render your data in so many different ways. The abstraction of your application’s data now has seemingly exponential opportunities to be used – it is only limited by the number of apps in the cloud (which will grow by the time you’re finished reading this blog).

The right architectural style for your enterprise

REST and JSON will undoubtedly continue to be used by developers as a way to define and build their APIs. The cloud allows both small developers and large enterprises with opportunities to get their application data into all manner of platforms and devices by creating standards-based APIs that are based solely on the functionality of client libraries delivered through their chosen scripting language (Ruby, Python, Javascript, etc), and accompanying standards (JSON being the most used these days).

REST is what one wants when looking to drive mass adoption. But as APIs become better understood and used for more specific purposes, it is logical that there are instances when getting specific needs met is helped by optimizing data sharing among identified apps and devices. In other words, for some apps, the essential element for sharing is ensuring it is optimized for the right users, not a mass audience of users. Typically, using protocols like MQTT and RPC allow for a more targeted representation of the data you are allowing to be used, and this is at odds with the purpose of a purely RESTful API.

API management for your enterprise

Again, for organizations that are happy with their current IT environment should optimize accordingly, and of course, with Lifecycle Manager, Community Manager and API Gateway, you’re equipped to run your APIs in an effective way, both technically and from a business perspective. But we encourage you to consider the impact of the cloud in your application development plans, and invite you to try out what it would be like to operate with an effective API management system. We have recently published several papers and webinars about the SOA and API management convergence and the benefits of a single unified solution.

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