With a company name like “SOA Software”, and a product line of API management and SOA governance solutions, you might think we run around telling people that SOA and APIs are the same thing. Well, they aren’t, and they are.
Certainly we recognize that there is a great deal of overlap, but we think that there’s an evolutionary element to how SOA and APIs fit together. If you already have adopted a services-based approach to application development, then you’re far more prepared to let APIs extend your data and application capabilities. That’s just an architectural fact, and it is a result of you and your organization having the mindset that encourages data flow and application integration. So we see the ability to create and manage APIs as a part of your business and technology strategy as an outgrowth of your SOA foundation.
SOA and APIs are not one and the same. SOA creates a framework that enables consumption and process capabilities for enterprise data – some say it’s a platform, others a methodology. An API, then, takes that data and achieves interaction, integration and transaction functionality with it. So really, they’re complementary. This is especially relevant as different types of platforms and channels (mobile, cloud, services) allow for an exponentially larger amount of potential points of intersection among data. The prospect can be overwhelming, but when SOA and APIs work together, which they are designed to do, the result is an efficient foundation, transaction capabilities and usability layer.
But even if your organization doesn’t have a services-based mindset, adopting SOA is not only a possibility, it’s actually the smartest thing you could do right now. So let’s take a look at three important things that explain the intersection of SOA and APIs, and why SOA makes it easier for you to develop and manage APIs:
SOA is the best foundation for APIs
This might have been ignored even a few years ago, but now it’s become fairly common thinking that the best thing to come out of an SOA is an interaction model. Gartner has even established a term called application services governance, which is the sweet spot of SOA and APIs working in an integrated way. The market value for this area of convergence was estimated at roughly $475 million in 2012, and Gartner suspects that by 2016 these two solution markets will merge into one.
Simon Barere, our Director of Technology, said, “All companies will benefit from a fully unified API and SOA presence because the need to organize and share enterprise data across many digital channels and user communities is universal in today’s highly connected, mobile world.” You can think of an SOA being a secure, but absorbent field into which APIs and the way they’re managed become easily integrated.
It’s also important to recognize the morphing of traditional SOA elements into API management. This includes application and API design, requirements, development, testing, deploying, managing, and then versioning to adapt. That has always been the SOA model, and the same framework and structure works for APIs. You can add to this framework the capabilities to encourage developer adoption and extension, creation of channels, and on top of all that, apply lifecycle management. That essentially becomes your application infrastructure, and with SOA at the base, your APIs naturally adapt to allow their extendable and integrateable functionality help you engage with more users and customers.
SOA and APIs want to enable flexibility
What made SOA so important? Well, for starters, it’s important to note that many denied the value of SOA, and they had to spend time to catch up, and spend boatloads of money to re-engineer their internal architectures (they also weren’t prepared to adapt to external applications). Others took what was perceived as a risk and found that they had made a smart decision. The advantage for early adopters was not just the SOA environment itself, but the rapidity with which all their application data could be leveraged and used with other apps.
What enabled SOA to be THE style of application development and governance was the fact that it was so flexible. Using composable chunks of data, sharing them as reusable elements, and being able to monitor them both internally and externally allowed an organization to be more responsive and adapt to user and market demands. That’s what software is supposed to do anyway – support the business. So SOA gave APIs an easy environment in which to do their jobs. APIs are themselves very flexible in how they operate, and the same principles apply.
SOA and APIs create markets
Maybe the key issue is that SOA changed the way people thought about technology because it put software into human and business contexts – and with that, APIs made it easier to do more things, and make those things meaningful. APIs are becoming the common denominator between the technology and business sides of the house, and those organizations that have an SOA framework can act quickly to realize with their technology investment the needs of their business.
For those who have already adopted an SOA foundation, they’ll find themselves a step ahead. As Barare says, “In order to ensure the maximum benefits of a unified SOA and API solution, business leaders need to ensure that their API program is developed in a manner that intersects with and converges with their existing SOA foundation.”
SOA changed the way people think about technology, and that kind of change is where opportunity exists. Smaller, reusable chunks of software were kind of revolutionary, but now that model is what drives the massive development and adoption of APIs. And with those APIs come business opportunities to extend data and mash it with the data of partners, suppliers and other users. So at the end of the day, we’re talking about a way of conducting business, and technology is supposed to support the business, not limit it. SOA created the foundation, and APIs are the tools that allow a business to take full advantage of its technology investment and prosper.