Jaime Ryan

Jaime Ryan

Jaime Ryan is the Partner Solutions Architect at Layer 7 Technologies. Jaime has been building secure integration architectures as a developer, architect, consultant and author for the last 15 years. He lives in San Diego with his wife and two daughters.

May 30th, 2012

Where Did Siri Go?

IBM Versus SiriRecently, there’s been some media focus on the limits of BYOD, especially relating to businesses disallowing certain smartphone features. This article on IBM’s somewhat restrictive BYOD guidelines mentions outright bans on technologies like Dropbox and Siri. As an ex-IBM employee, a geek in a partner-facing technical role and a smartphone user, I’m particularly intrigued by the lines drawn by corporations in cases like this.

As the variety of available business apps and mobile devices continues to grow exponentially, enterprises will find it increasingly difficult to place such rigid limits on BYOD. Employees are already beginning to feel entitled to use apps that make them more efficient. In some case this may mean that employees will knowingly use banned apps. If businesses want to avoid this kind of insubordination, they will have to work with their employees, not against them.

One part of the solution is a focus on education rather than overly-strict technological bans. Another is embracing the concept of BYOD rather than fighting it. For instance, many of our customers provide their own apps to run on employee-owned devices. We focus on providing these customers with solutions that allow them to make BYOD secure and manageable, without having to ban apps or impose invasive mobile device management software.

The rest of the solution will come from Cloud and mobile vendors taking steps to make their technologies more enterprise-friendly. This means, for example:

  • Apple will need to recognize its prevalence in the enterprise market and take steps to certify iCloud and Siri for business use.
  • Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive will need to deliver terms of service that assuage fears rather than fostering them.

No one has all of the answers yet and I suppose you can’t blame IBM for a cautious approach but the most successful BYOD initiatives are likely going to be those that are flexible enough to avoid alienating employees. How else will we know what happens when Siri is asked to open the pod bay doors?

May 18th, 2012

The Secret Lives of REST APIs

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Netflix APIThe recent enterprise acceptance of lightweight REST-based protocols for exposing data and application assets as APIs has been due, in large part, to the simplicity of the resulting interfaces. This simplicity means there is little barrier to entry for developers wishing to consume these APIs in applications built for mobile, Web, desktop, Cloud and gaming platforms. However, as this article from Netflix’s Daniel Jacobson reveals, simplicity can’t be the only goal when designing an API. Flexibility, scalability, optimization, orchestration and adaptation are just a few of the features required in a successful API infrastructure.

At Layer 7, our enterprise customers build incredibly elegant API platforms using our API management technology. Our solutions recognize that one size does not fit all and we provide the tools to adapt to changing requirements without re-architecting new APIs from scratch. Though we certainly support the simple “large number of known and unknown developers” use case Jacobson describes – with robust, scalable technology deployed on a wide variety of hardware, virtual, software and Cloud platforms – we can also address the specific concerns raised by the variety of devices and environments in Netflix’s ecosystem.

Message size, structure and delivery constraints due to device variation represent a large part of the problem. Layer 7 Gateways support the relevant formats and transports and can perform message transformation and protocol mediation on the fly. Policy-based configuration enables custom “virtual” APIs tailored to each device, community of developers or calling application. These format and behavioral changes can be explicit or can be triggered by user identity, app permissions, message content or transaction metadata. Even more complex mediations, such as REST exposure of internal SOAP-based assets, are simple to configure and help to reduce re-implementation costs.

Interaction models can also be optimized and tailored to the calling platform. Composition of comprehensive document-based APIs from multiple backend calls can reduce chatty client interactions. Conversely, small messages from memory-constrained devices can be aggregated into larger, less frequent backend calls. Mobile traffic can be optimized using persistent HTTP(S) connections and over-the-wire compression. And content can be cached at any level of granularity, using an in-memory cache like Terracotta, to reduce the number of calls to the application backend.

As director of one of the world’s most broadly adopted public APIs, Jacobson’s most profound observation is that “public APIs are waning in popularity and business opportunity and… the internal use case is the wave of the future.” API infrastructure needs to support everyone – open API developers, internal coders, contracted development teams and partner groups – especially as mobile workforce enablement and BYOD gain popularity. Layer 7 solutions allow enterprises to make that distinction clear through public vs. private APIs, configurable classes of service and role-based access control.

Jacobson mentions several piecemeal solutions that he and others have attempted to compile into a working platform but notes that those approaches still fall short. Providing an enterprise-grade REST API is no simple feat and it’s great that the truth of the matter is starting to come out. The benefits of a successful API strategy are numerous and well-documented. Layer 7 is the only vendor providing an API management solution that incorporates all the basic necessary functionality and much, much more.

May 10th, 2012

Talking Mobile Strategy at the Forrester Forums

Forrester ForumsLast week Layer 7 sponsored Forrester’s CIO and Enterprise Architecture forums in Las Vegas. These were great conferences with various tracks covering such lofty concepts as “business strategy” and “innovation”. But the track that was getting everyone talking – and driving attendance at the Layer 7 booth – was about mobile strategy.

CIOs have started to recognize that – with BYOD gaining strength – mobile is coming to business, like it or not. The many CIOs who came by our booth all seemed determined to address the issue head-on. For some, this will mean developing apps in-house; for others, enabling third-party app developers. In either case, the key to success will be publishing secure, robust APIs.

Publishing mobile APIs raises various questions for CIOs. Some of the questions we heard in Vegas are external corollaries of challenges we’ve been solving for years (“How do I expose a REST API when my data is delivered via SOAP services?”) Others are completely new (“What happens when someone with our app on their personal smartphone leaves the company?”)

These issues also arose during an interesting session called “Navigating the Mobile Shift.” At this session, after some input from Forrester analysts, everyone split into groups for brainstorming on problems (and solutions) in specific categories. When each group presented its findings, security and governance questions were at the top of every list.

These forum participants aren’t from mom-and-pop startups – they’re with large enterprises that have serious security, governance, performance and scalability concerns. Helping enterprises address these concerns for API-based integrations is Layer 7’s core business, so we’ll be eagerly following future developments in enterprise mobile enablement and BYOD.

May 8th, 2012

Android, APIs & Copyright

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Google vs OracleLike many people in technical professions, I face the ongoing challenge of explaining my industry to non-technical friends and relatives. Acronyms generally provide the biggest challenges. Explaining that SOAP isn’t a beauty product genuinely took up a significant part of my life in 2001.

Fortunately, people have gotten a lot more tech-savvy in the last decade, partly due to the proliferation and success of well-known tech companies like Apple, Google and Oracle. So when two of those companies get into a huge legal battle over an acronym (in this case, “API”) that’s little known outside technical circles, I welcome attention from mainstream society.

For the last two years, Oracle and Google have been involved in a protracted battle over the APIs for (and resulting implementation of) some Java functionality re-used in the Android mobile operating system. Yesterday marked the first real verdict in the case – in the first of three parts, Google was dealt a minor blow in regards to copying nine lines of code.

Major media outlets have oversimplified the ruling but the real test is yet to come. In a few weeks, the judge will rule on whether APIs are copyrightable. With APIs fast becoming the core means for communicating enterprise data across organizational boundaries, this could have serious implications for enterprise architects.

For example, our partner Eucalyptus Systems implements Amazon Web Services APIs to manage private Cloud infrastructure. A ruling that APIs are copyrightable would have put that usage in jeopardy, if Eucalyptus hadn’t recently announced an agreement with Amazon. Vendors reusing the VMware vCloud API would be in a similar predicament.

Layer 7’s API management products govern interfaces across a variety of message types and transport protocols, so we’re technically agnostic. But we’re intrigued to see APIs being discussed in the mainstream media and we’ll be following the case closely. For more analysis and daily coverage, Groklaw has great recaps. It’s like a geeky version of a TV court procedural.

March 21st, 2012

Implementing BYOD-centric Systems

Implementing BYOD-centric SystemsIn recent conversations with our service provider partners and customers, I’ve been hearing a common theme: their enterprise customers are scared of BYOD. The recent trend of employees using their own technology – iPads, smart-phones etc. – to connect with corporate assets worries them. Their main concern is that they won’t be able to keep up with the security and management requirements that go along with this new method of accessing data assets.

While there are existing solutions for playing keep-up, many of them rely on isolation and restriction to prevent corporate assets from traveling too far from the enterprise. Unfortunately, I think employees – especially the more tech-savvy among them – will resent having corporate security policies installed on their devices or being limited to separate-but-equal wireless networks with limited access to the resources necessary to do their jobs. By focusing on containment and control, enterprises are missing an amazing opportunity to make BYOD work for them.

The efficiencies gained by embracing the inevitable and implementing some BYOD-centric systems should not be overlooked. Layer 7 customers are creating mobile applications designed specifically to support their employees, whether their devices are employee-owned or provided by IT.  Our solutions for security and governance of the APIs used by those applications can prevent data leakage, protect against incoming threats and provide access to only appropriate personnel.

So, whether your employees are baggage handlers determining the destination for a piece of lost luggage, nurses providing care to house-bound patients or remote employees connecting to their peers through a corporate directory and communication hub, the real winner is the bottom line. BYOD and mobile workforce enablement are opportunities to embrace – not afflictions to be cured – and we’re here to help.