September 25th, 2012

Do You Need MBaaS to be a Mobile Bad Ass Developer?

MBaaSSimple answer: no. But if you’re a developer building the next great consumer app in a hurry, it probably won’t hurt. MBaaS (“mobile backend as a service”) solves some pretty prickly problems for the start-up developer. MBaaS offerings like Appcelerator, CloudMine, FeedHenry and StackMob deliver the basic components for storage, messaging, notification, user management and so forth that mobile developers need, making it easy for developers to set up and operate the backend for their applications.

But let’s say you’re not a bad-ass consumer app developer. Imagine you’re a mild-mannered enterprise dev looking to make a solid app for your field sales organization. What does MBaaS do for you? Maybe the right question is what does MBaaS not do for you? Answer: it doesn’t get you access to the one thing you need as an enterprise developer – enterprise data.

Enterprise apps need data like plants need sunlight. It could be customer records, documentation, pricing information, inventory levels or a myriad other things. But that data is stuck in the enterprise, inside of SAP this and SharePoint that and database the other. No amount of simplifying interactions with AWS will get that information into your hands to build the super-compelling apps employees need access to.

Enter mobile middleware like Layer 7’s SecureSpan Mobile Access Gateway. Getting the stuff that’s locked inside the enterprise into the hands of devs is a middleware problem. It’s about information sharing. It’s about opening up but in a very targeted manner. MBaaS has some great ideas for making a mobile developer’s life easier. Enterprise devs want the same benefits but with the added benefit of access to enterprise data. I joined Layer 7 from a prior gig at RIM to help that happen. Stay tuned for details.

September 24th, 2012

Upcoming Webinar: Open APIs + Software Competitions = Innovative & Creative Solutions featuring ChallengePost

Layer 7 Challenge Post WebinarOpen API publishers often find themselves testing different strategies for promoting their APIs to developers. Hackathons represent a quick and easy way to get publicity and traction but API publishers often find the effects to be short-lived, with few meaningful mobile apps or Web mash-ups actually getting built.

At Layer 7, we work with our customers to help them drive real and measurable business results from their APIs. One specific method that has proven successful over time is running software competitions. As a partner with the leading online competition platform, ChallengePost, Layer 7 helps customers create developer challenges that get the desired results.

Within the scope of a hackathon – even one with unlimited Red Bull and experienced developers – time constraints will always force teams to cut corners and deliver prototypes or alpha/beta applications. By taking the idea of a hackathon and stretching it out over weeks or months, API publishers see drastically improved results.

Online challenges give developers the time to write quality code and build their applications from alpha, to beta, to production. Developer challenges also give API publishers more meaningful ways to engage with the participating teams. Meanwhile, offering prizes creates incentives that drive real, committed interest from developers.

I’ll be looking more deeply into the ins and outs of developer competitions on October 4, when I co-present a webinar called Open APIs + Software Competitions = Innovative & Creative Solutions, alongside Brandon Kessler of ChallengePost. Click here if you want to see more details of this event or if you’re interested in registering to attend.

September 21st, 2012

Layer 7 at the International SOA, Cloud + Service Technology Symposium

SOA, Cloud + Service Technology SymposiumThe International SOA, Cloud + Service Technology Symposium takes place next week in London and the track titles remind me how much SOA has changed in the last 10 years. Mobile and cloud use cases have revolutionized the way we architect, deploy and manage SOA infrastructures, resulting in forward-looking tracks such as “New Service-Orientation Practices & Models” and “Emerging Service Technology Innovation.”

For the Layer 7 perspective on these service technology trends, come see our presentations throughout the week. On Monday, I’ll be speaking about how traditional SOA technologies such as the enterprise service bus (ESB) need to adapt to an evolving IT landscape. On Tuesday, our CTO Scott Morrison will be giving a closing keynote about “The New Governance”.  Wednesday brings an API Management Workshop at the Canadian High Commission, hosted by Layer 7 along with our customer MoneySupermarket.com and analyst firm RedMonk.

Layer 7 is a Founding Partner at the Symposium and we’re excited to welcome a who’s who of analysts, vendors and enterprises to join in the conversation. These illustrious attendees have helped to define the industry and revolutionize enterprise IT – and I’m looking forward to insightful speakers and great networking opportunities. For a more intimate conversation, stop by our booth (#110) to see a demo or discuss your SOA, cloud, API or mobile use cases.

London has shown an incredible amount of enthusiasm for sporting events this summer, from the Olympics and Paralympics to the Tour de France, which was won by a Brit for the first time in its history. Let’s keep that excitement going – see you at the Symposium!

September 18th, 2012

Dispatches from Rome
History Repeats: The Search for Agility & Reuse Through APIs

SDP Global Summit RomeRome has seen its share of history. Therefore it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to hear telco after telco at last week’s SDP Global Summit echo the decade-old SOA mantra of abstraction, agility and reuse when talking about their new API initiatives. If they’d added a mention or two of loose coupling, the transportation back in time would have been complete.

On the surface, there’s no inconsistency between talking API and talking SOA: “API” usually denotes an implementation style; “SOA” an architectural approach to integration. A decade ago, SOAP and WS* formed an ideal implementation of SOA – or so thought the committees that drafted the supporting specifications behind what became known as Web services.

Like all well-intentioned products of committee, Web services represented an act of compromise, accommodating many competing interests. But their complexity became self-limiting and so Web APIs, with their familiar Web-like approach to handling machine-to-machine interactions, have become the latest hope for practical SOA among enterprises and telco carriers.

For carriers, the race to APIfication has a special urgency. With the explosion of apps running on smart phones, smart TVs and smart everything, the carrier is often relegated to providing a pipe and subsidizing devices. APIs give them hope by allowing them to expose their various assets as programmatic interfaces that can be leveraged by internal and external app developers.

This empowers carriers to stay competitive and relevant by giving them the ability to deliver software and services into the marketplace faster. APIs also allow carriers to adapt and react to failure more efficiently. If one idea doesn’t work, a telco can quickly retool and offer a new set of services that may have more appeal.

But if Web APIs are to deliver on the SOA vision of agility and reuse, they will need some of the same plumbing that made Web services work. Specifically, SOA Gateways were essential in making Web services practical. They provided a controlled, simple and economical way to connect services, regardless of differences in implementation.

Similarly, for APIs to be successful in the carrier market, telcos will need to implement API-ready SOA Gateways – or “API Gateways” – that can offload all the abstraction, adaptation, orchestration, security, SLA and identity brokering from the API logic. As with SOA, governance belongs not in the API but in an intermediary that mediates interactions with other applications. History repeats.

September 17th, 2012

Web APIs are International

APIs are GlobalI had the great fortune of spending last week in India, helping a Layer 7 customer develop a Web API program from scratch. While it’s always exciting to walk into a greenfield situation and build something new, I was doubly excited to be doing this in India, where the concept of open APIs is still fairly new.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen explosive growth in open APIs across North America, lead of course by the avant garde Internet companies on the West Coast. The API Management industry has focused much of its attention on the US market but the Web API movement has definitely made its way to other markets and the push towards mobile and device-based applications is clearly having an influence on enterprise architectures.

Western Europe has had a strong influence on the API scene, with notable government and enterprise organizations diving wholeheartedly into the collaborative, developer-focused open API space. London, in particular, has developed a thriving technology scene with tons of hackathons, codeathons, meetups and start-up companies trying to change the world or at least get rich trying.

At the moment, the open API scene in India is still in its infancy and I’m looking forward to helping the concept blossom in whatever way that I can. As you may be aware, the number of mobile devices being used in India is mind-boggling and the ratio of mobile-use-to-desktop-computing is much higher than in North America or Western Europe.  This quantity of mobile client platforms, combined with the large number of motivated developers on the scene, makes this a very intriguing open API marketplace. I can’t disclose any details on the nature of the project yet… but I’m hoping to to have exciting news to share in the near future, so stay tuned.

I’ve spent most of the summer in North America, for a variety of reasons and I’m excited that I will finally be getting back home to the UK so I can re-engage with the European API and mobile scene. We have some great Layer 7 API workshops scheduled across Europe over the next few months and hopefully we will uncover a few new and noteworthy European API publishers while we are on tour.