November 8th, 2012

APIs in Apps: Considerations for UX & App Performance Optimization

QConWhen a mobile app is dependent upon APIs, many new challenges are introduced to the developer. To provide the best possible user experience (UX), a mobile app should be snappy and responsive. Often though, in the reality of cell phone networks that are bottlenecked and over capacity, a dependence on a fast data connection can lead to a UX nightmare.

Tomorrow (that’s Friday November 9) at 10:30am, I’ll be discussing the challenges of mobile app UX at QCon in San Francisco. In a presentation called “HTML5 Cross-Platform Mobile Apps Integrating APIs”, I’ll be outlining significant challenges around API-driven mobile apps, as well as mistakes developers commonly make, and suggesting best practices for addressing them.

I hope you can make, if you’re at the show. Also, be sure to visit Layer 7 at booth #11.

October 15th, 2012

API Workshops in Europe

Paris API WorkshopI had a great time presenting on API design and management trends at our London API Workshop a few weeks back. James Governor from RedMonk delivered an exciting talk on APIs, the need for API Management and some stark truths, like the fact that Java is still at the top of the programming pile. All of the trend talk and analysis was followed by a great real-world example when MoneySupermarket.com’s Cornelius Burger described his organization’s journey implementing the MoneySupermarket API with a SecureSpan API Proxy. We had excellent feedback on the event, so I know I wasn’t the only one who learned a lot from our speakers.

I was particularly impressed by the range of industries and organizations that were represented in the audience. We had developers from large enterprise shops, specialized Internet-focused start-ups and even a few entrepreneurs just getting started. I think this range of interest is indicative of the value of Web APIs for all and bodes well for a continued investment in designing great APIs, rather than just chucking them out into the ether.

Next up on the tour is our Paris API Workshop taking place tomorrow (Tuesday, October 16).  As always, we have a great set of speakers lined up, with Martin Duval from bluenove talking about building developer outreach programs and Benoit Herard from Orange Labs discussing their API launch. France has a  great start-up culture and a reputation for enterprises like Orange driving innovation, so I’m expecting good conversation, some excellent API Management presentations and – if I’m lucky – some great wines.

October 12th, 2012

Dispatches from NY
Don’t be a Control Freak

Interop New YorkA week back, I had the privilege of joining some industry peers at New York’s Interop conference, to discuss trends in enterprise mobility. Each of the companies represented a sub-segment of the mobility space. We had a big data company, an MDM vendor, a client virtualization company and me representing the MBaaS wing. Each presenter made a case for why their sub-segment is essential to enabling the mobile enterprise.

Not surprisingly, they all emphasized their security and management credentials as being central to their value propositions. Each vendor took a different approach to protecting the welfare of the enterprise but in the end, we all promised we could defend organizations against risk, both technological and financial. What we neglected to mention, I realized afterwards, was that a little risk is sometimes good.

Don’t get me wrong, security is something I take seriously. We at Layer 7 guard some of the most sensitive government and commercial APIs against cyber attack and misuse. But there is a downside to an unbalanced emphasis on insecurity – and that is fear. Some fear ensures prudence. Too much fear can arrest the progress of whole industries.

In a few short years, smart mobile devices have completely transformed how we communicate, socialize, shop and get entertained. Almost overnight, an economy has grown up around mobile apps. This same app explosion is poised to change how enterprises function, by completely un-tethering employees, while providing a way for companies to reach their customers beyond the PC and TV. But to get there, enterprises will have to encourage app innovation and the only way to achieve that is by opening up.

Now, no one says that opening up needs to be a foolhardy effort. Opening up data and applications to mobile apps needs to be done in a guarded and prudent manner. But in all the talk around mobile security, it’s important not to stifle innovation around mobile development. Security has to go hand-in-hand with connectivity.

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.