November 2nd, 2012

Opening up Enterprise APIs

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Enterprise APIsA few months back, I wrote a blog post titled “Are Open APIs Too Open for Big Business?” That post was about the challenges large businesses face when adopting an open API mentality. In it, I described the fears of brand damage and lack of control that prevent enterprises from opening up their data stores and services to the world. I also reasoned that large organizations could provide a new type of stable, trusted and highly-available API in the marketplace. Not a lot has changed over the last three months – big businesses are still absorbing the idea of open APIs and are continuing to weigh accessibility against control before taking the plunge. As before, the good news is that their reservations around control are being addressed with solutions like Layer 7′s API Management Suite, which lets them create a developer experience that will bring in the hordes while still keeping the gates secure.

The reality is that many enterprises are already taking advantage of the API wave by using open API tools and philosophies to create and mange private APIs that, in turn, power their branded mobile and browser applications. This is a good thing as it allows businesses to reach their customers and to integrate easily with smaller mobile and device development shops. Plus, it fits well with a corporate culture of control. But organizations are missing a trick if they don’t consciously explore the benefits of opening these APIs up and joining the world of platforms, developers and communities that rely on open APIs to power their applications and projects.

These are big decisions with big consequences. The success of an enterprise open API program will likely be dependent on those at the very top of the organization providing the necessary leadership and investment required for big change to happen. That takes time. In the meantime, the projects won’t stop, the need for B2B integration will continue and the consumer demand for applications on every device will grow louder and louder. In this climate, there is an immediate need for enterprises to release APIs (be they private or public) as quickly and efficiently as possible while still addressing concerns over control.

Layer 7′s new APIfy service fits perfectly in this space as it allows small teams within the enterprise to get their private or public APIs out the door with a cloud-based API Management solution. They will get all the benefits of rate limiting, controlled access and the developer-friendly portal experience that are the hallmarks of a real Web API, in a SaaS platform. The fact that it is cloud-based means that smaller groups will be able to focus on delivering the solution without diving deep into hosting and implementation details.

Amidst all the decision making, strategizing and private API launches, the steady drum beat of progress towards open APIs in the enterprise has not stopped. The idea that information and services need to be shared in order to be valuable is taking root amongst thought leaders in the mainstream technology world and is, in turn, being heard within the enterprise. For example, Gartner has just published a research article claiming that financial institutions should be investing in APIs rather than applications (with API Management technology addressing the issues around control). Just as online banking started with private connections before it eventually landed on the public Web, the big banks could shift from private API adoption to public API adoption very quickly if the market demanded it. When banks open up their services for controlled consumption, there will be little doubt that the open API era has arrived for the enterprise.

It hasn’t gotten any easier to become an open API enterprise over the last three months but it certainly isn’t becoming less important. Hopefully, continued improvements in API Management technology will make that shift just a little bit easier.

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