October 2nd, 2013

How APIs Grease the Data Wheels

Data MonetizationThis week, I’ve been attending and speaking at Data 2.0 in San Francisco, which is part of the API World Conference & Expo. Plainly, there is a connection between data and APIs.

As an API vendor, I would dearly like to believe the universe is embracing the API; giving it the proverbial uplifted thumb. And there’s no reason to think data doesn’t similarly “like” the API. APIs unlock value by making information available to both developers and applications – and there is plenty of value in data. Unlocking the value of data benefits everyone, especially the new data barons who own, aggregate or analyze the data. If data is the new oil, APIs are the pipelines and tankers (I guess making Hadoop the refiner).

But exposing data via APIs is not the full extent of the connection between data and APIs. The data landscape is getting reshaped by new found capabilities to store, mash, analyze and consume data. APIs provide the pathways for moving the data. But that leaves open the question of who regulates the pathways and the flow of data.

API delivery and management platforms like Layer 7′s represent one option for regulating the pathways and – if I may be so bold – perhaps the right way when data spans the Internet. If data sources, processors and destinations are distributed across the far-flung clouds, devices and apps that make-up the Internet, APIs provide the best way to interconnect the various data stores and actors. But then API delivery and management platforms are needed to govern that data flow.

API delivery and management platforms can simplify the ingestion of data from diverse stores spread out across the Internet. They can scrub, normalize and sanitize the data sets. They can simplify routing and federation across analysis and visualization tools. They can make data more consumable for developers, mobile apps, cloud services and even devices. And in the case of products like Layer 7, they can do this in a way that preserves privacy, integrity and general security.

Enterprises want to unlock value from their data oil. APIs provide the channels for getting the oil to the place where it can make the most difference. API delivery and management platforms ensure that the flow of data is both secure and managed – and always the right fit. As I described in my Data 2.0 talk earlier today, API delivery and management platforms can make the difference between being a data wildcatter and data baron.

September 13th, 2013

Nordic APIs

Nordic APIsIt looks like the remainder of September will provide a bounty of learning opportunities for those of you interested in diving deeper into API design.  To start with, Mike Amundsen and I will be continuing our Layer 7 API Academy workshop tour in Montreal and Calgary. In addition to our API Academy events, Mike will be hosting his annual conference related to all things REST with RESTFest 2013. I had the pleasure of attending last year and I highly recommend going if you are interested in thought-provoking conversation and ideas in the hypermedia domain.

On the other side of the ocean and closer to home for me is next week’s Nordic APIs conference in Stockholm (September 18-19).  I’ve been to a few of the smaller API design conferences that the Nordic APIs team has put on and I can say without a doubt that this will be a conference worth attending.  They’ve always done a great job of putting together sessions that will appeal to developers on the leading edge of API design as well as those who are looking for practical solutions.

I’ll be delivering a keynote presentation on a developer experience (DX) oriented design approach for APIs. My colleague Holger Reinhardt will be talking about the Internet of Things and Aran White will be delivering a demonstration of the Layer 7 product line. Of course, the great value in events like this comes from the serendipitous conversations that take place outside the agenda and Holger, Aran and I are really looking forward to swapping war stories with Nordic API attendees.

While I’m sad that I won’t be able to join Mike at RESTFest this year, I’m overjoyed at the reason I can’t go. I’m continually amazed at how much the European API design community has grown and watching the Nordic event grow from a few small events into a major conference has been eye opening. Not too long ago, it was difficult to find API design events to attend but now we are spoiled for choice. It’s a great indication of the continued interest in and growth of Web-based APIs.

August 9th, 2013

REST Fest 2013 is Coming!

REST Fest 2013It’s that time of year again! REST Fest 2013 is less than two months away (September 19-21) and preparations and are in full swing. Now in its fourth year, REST Fest has become one of my favorite events on the calendar and I’m very much looking forward to being involved with this year’s event.

REST is Just the Beginning
This year the keynote will be delivered by Brian Sletten. And – judging from the title (and my knowledge of Brian’s experience and knowledge) – it will be a great talk. We’re honored that Brian accepted our invitation and looking forward not just to his presentation but also the resulting converstations and explorations that are hallmarks of REST Fest.

Everybody Talks
An important part of REST Fest is the principle that everyone who shows up must give a presentation. The talks are typically quite short: a five-minute “lightning” talk followed by a short Q&A session. There are a few 30-minute  “featured talks”, too. But the basic idea is that we all get to talk about things that are interesting to us and we don’t have to make a big deal about it.

Every year, I probably learn more than 30 new ideas and novel approaches to problem solving and get to talk to the people who are coming up with these great things. REST Fest is a fantastic boost to my creative spirit!

Everybody Listens
The corollary to our key “talk” principle is that we all get to listen, too. And listening is, in my opinion, even more important than speaking. REST Fest attendees come from all sorts of backgrounds, experiences and points of view. The chance to hear how others view the Web space, how others are tackling problems and how others are advancing the practice of services on the Web is always an eye opener.

Less Theory, More Practice
And that leads to another key aspect of the weekend. The focus is on doing, not theorizing. We’re a decidely non-pedantic bunch and are usually much more interested in cool solutions than compelling theories. While it may still be common to think of anything with the REST acronym in the name to be a meeting of pointy-headed geeks, that’s not us. Each year, I get to see actual code solving actual problems in the real world.

We Hack, Too
Every year, we also host a hack day where everyone gets together to work on cool REST-related Web stuff. This year, Erik Mogensen will be leading the day. From what I’ve seen, he’s got some cool ideas in store for us, too.

It’s Easy to Join Us
Just as we cut down on the ceremony surrounding speaking and participating in a conference, we also try to eliminate the ceremony around signing up and showing up for REST Fest. It’s quite easy:

  1. Join our mailing list to see what we’re all about
  2. Drop into the IRC channel to chat us up
  3. Hop onto the GitHub wiki and create your “people page”
  4. Head over to the registration page and reserve your seat for the event

There’s no waiting to see if your talk was accepted; no wondering if what you’re working on would be interesting to some review committee. Just sign up, post your ideas and head down to sunny Greenville, SC for a great weekend.

Need More REST Fest NOW?
Can’t wait for RESTFEst 2013 to get started? Take a look at our Vimeo channel with all the talks from previous years. There’s lots of very cool stuff there.

See you in September!

(Originally published on my personal blog.)

July 19th, 2013

What I Learned in Helsinki: The Core Motivation of IoT & Other Reflections

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Category Conferences, IoT, M2M
 

Reflections on IoT-ALast month, I attended a two-day IoT-A workshop during IoT Week in Helsinki. The goal of the workshop was to showcase the various IoT research projects that are jointly funded by industry and the EU’s FP7 research program. The quality of the projects on display was amazing and I could not possibly do it justice in the space of a blog post. Still, here’s a partial list of what I saw:

BUTLER

  • Horizontal open platform for IoT
  • To learn the intent of a user requires a horizontal approach
  • This horizontal approach leads to context awareness

FI-WARE

iCore

  • Composed of Virtual Objects, Composite Virtual Objects and  Service Layer
  • User characteristics + situation awareness = intent recognition

OpenIoT

  • Linked sensor middleware
  • Data management instead of infrastructure management
  • Uses information interoperability and linked data to enable automated composition

ComVantage

  • Manufacturing automation
  • Uses XACML and extends it for linked data

CHOReOS

  • Probabilistic registration of things
  • Registration decisions are based on existing density and coverage requirements

To get a more complete picture, you can find all the presentations from the workshop here.

There were two key insights I took away from this workshop, both of which had to do with subtle similarities shared by all the projects.

First, sitting in and listening to the various presentations, I was struck by one particular similarity: at the core of each use case was the desire to make better-informed decisions. I’ve tried to capture what I call the core motivation of IoT in the picture below.

The identity of the user or thing combined with the temporal and/or spatial context based on real-world knowledge and data from the past can allow us to make better-informed decisions for the future. I think this holds for both the smart coffeemaker and the smart city.

My other insight had to do with the surprisingly similar characteristics of the various presented IoT applications. I tried to capture these characteristics in the picture below.

At the heart of the applications lies data – lots of data. But Big Data has two siblings: Fast Data and Open Data. The applications are graph-structured based on the relationship of things to each other and to me. They are event-driven rather than transactional and they are compositional.

What do you think? What kind of similarities do you see between the various applications?

April 2nd, 2013

Mobile World Congress One Month On

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IoT CompaniesIt’s has been over a month since the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona and it seems like a good time to review what I learned there. First, I was amazed by the prominence of mobile accessory vendors: from tablet bags to smart phone covers. Second, while IoT and M2M were mentioned, they were relegated to a narrow strip in the back of Hall 2. Taking both of these facts together, it appears that the mobile accessory business is for real and IoT is all hype.

So, are all these news stories about trillion-dollar business opportunities in IoT just stories? Most likely the truth is that no one has yet figured out how to make money with IoT but everyone wants to make sure that they are at least seen to have a plan – just in case it does take off. As if to prove this point, ZDnet made a very different assessment of M2M at MWC. I went into more detail on these issues during my recent interview with DeviceLine Radio.

Personally, I firmly believe in the disruptive potential for IoT. It will be disruptive because it will break down the separation between manufacturing industry on one side and IT industry on the other. Manufacturing companies like GE, Bosch and Siemens will increasingly see IT – and Big Data in particular – as a core competency they will need to master in order to sustain a competitive advantage. Simply outsourcing to IT companies will no longer suffice.

We can clearly see this developing as, for example, Bosch is readying its Internet Application Platform and GE is aggressively building out its Silicon Valley presence. At the same time IT companies are trying to position themselves as natural partners for manufactures or as integrators of smart things. Credit has to go to IBM, which has been pushing this trend as part of its Smarter Planet campaign, way ahead of other players.

Meanwhile, telecom carriers are also struggling to decide what IoT will mean for them. It’s easy to see how telecom’s core business can be seen as just a set of “dumb” data pipes. The challenge for this sector will be figuring out how to leverage its considerable assets, like cellular networks, global roaming and integrated billing, to create M2M business platforms. I think that Big Data analytics on the data piped through their network will have to be part of it.