April 22nd, 2013

How to Make Your Developers Mobile Innovators (Psst… It’s in the API Presentation Layer!)

Mobile InnovatorsAPIs have multiple purposes inside an enterprise. Most of the early excitement around API stemmed from the potential for APIs to foster communities of “long-tail” developers. With data becoming the new mobile currency, opening up data to legions of developers held out the promise of multiplying revenue and reach for start-ups and enterprises alike.

While several start-ups have demonstrated the potential of tapping the long-tail developer community (look at examples like Twillio, Tapjoy, Stripe and Braintree) the number of enterprises that have seen similar success is less clear (Amazon Web Services is an obvious counterpoint).

One reason for this is simple – enterprises have conflicting interests and are almost never set up to successfully service these communities at all costs. This doesn’t negate the value of fostering relations with the long tail. External developer programs make sense for enterprises and should be viewed as strategic, even if the immediate payback is not obvious. With the advent of the app economy, developers represent as important a channel to market as traditional distributors.

However, often overlooked in the race to launch an external API developer program is the potential benefit of an internal API developer program. Enterprises have, in many cases, thousands if not tens of thousands of developers internally. Often, internal developers are supplemented by contractors. Enabling all these developers to become mobile innovators through APIs holds out the promise of delivering the kinds of leaps in productivity, agility and experimentation that will benefit any enterprise.

To make internal developers innovation leaders, it is essential to provide a canonical way for these developers to access all corporate application and data resources. An API abstraction layer delivered through an ESB or API Gateway simplifies the process of API-ifying information resources and consuming APIs.

But that’s not enough because developers will still need a central directory or registry of APIs to discover which APIs are available and what these APIs do. In the WS*-centered Web services world of SOAP-oriented APIs, which most enterprises still inhabit, this function would be handled by a UDDI directory and some accompanying “repository” software. But in the API world, no exact analog has existed – in part because every API Management vendor has insisted on provisioning its API portal in the public cloud only, a place most enterprises are reluctant to post APIs aimed at internal developers. Layer 7 aims to bridge the gap.

The Layer7 API Portal is the first turnkey API developer portal that can be deployed 100% inside a customer’s private cloud, datacenter or IT facility. Moreover, it is the first developer portal to offer simultaneous support for both RESTful APIs and SOAPy APIs, meaning it can act as a substitute for existing UDDI-style services while providing a pathway to newer RESTful services. Best of all, it can be implemented with different grades of privacy so that the same API Portal can support internal, contract and external developers at the same time – with each group seeing only what the enterprise chooses.

By centralizing where APIs are presented for discovery and consumption by developers, enterprises can make it easier for their service innovators to build new capabilities and mash multiple existing services into newer composite business functions. They can introduce new apps and applications faster. They can respond to change faster. They can build and iterate on new mobile apps in less time, with less error. It all comes down to the API presentation layer.

April 18th, 2013

Intel Buys Mashery! Is it Because the Cloud Will Have an API Inside?

Intel-MasheryFor close to five years, Intel has had a stake in the API space. All the while, I’ve often asked myself why. Intel originally acquired an API Gateway from a prior Intel Capital investment that never fully blossomed. And despite the oddness of having a tiny enterprise software franchise lost inside a semiconductor behemoth, Intel persisted in its experiment, even in the face of questionable market success and lukewarm analyst reaction. So, why double down on APIs now?

With the steady decline of the PC business, Intel clearly has to look elsewhere for its future growth. The cloud datacenter is not a bad place to start. Cloud server farms clearly consume lots of processors. Still, servers powering Web sites can operate fine without APIs, thank-you. But servers powering mobile is a different story. Mobile apps (whether HTML5, hybrid or native) get the data that makes them valuable from applications that reside in datacenters. And APIs are the key to letting cloud data be sharable with mobile apps.

Clearly, app-centric “smart” phones and tablets and TVs and cars and watches and glasses are changing the way we go about our daily business. And APIs will power these smart devices by giving enterprise and Internet companies a way to push their data to apps. That hope of bridging the cloud with mobile is probably why Intel has kept its current API product intact. Mashery broadens Intel’s API scope by providing a way to not only share data with mobile apps but now also the developers that build these apps. But will this plan succeed?

If it does, it will take quite a bit of time. The reality today remains that Intel – even despite the semi-recent McAfee acquisition – is not oriented to selling software or even cloud services into the enterprise. It’s missing the sales force. It’s missing the history. And in many ways, it’s missing the rest of the software stack it needs to power the networking, infrastructure and application parts that underpin data in the cloud. That will make selling an API platform comprising a legacy API Gateway and newfound API developer platform a harder proposition. It’s kind of out there alone.

Another obvious roadblock to making the Mashery acquisition successful is that Intel’s existing API Gateway and the Mashery API service are designed for two very different audiences inside the enterprise, with un-reconcilable needs. The API Gateway is designed for an IT department that wants to run its API Management layer in its own datacenter. The Mashery offering is designed for a non-IT buyer (a mobile program manager, say) who wants to run everything in someone else’s cloud.

One is technical, the other is not. One is on-premise, the other is SaaS. One sells traditional software licenses, the other pure subscription. The first aims to address internal and external API integration challenges. The latter is only really concerned with the challenge of acquiring external API developers (though Mashery would probably protest this point).

Will the two be a marriage made in heaven? Given that the Intel/Mashery partnership is already a year old and that Mashery was barely able to grow its revenues in that time, the likelihood seems remote. But who knows for sure? And anyway, Intel has probably not bought Mashery for its $12M in revenue but for its long-term potential as a pathway to mobile.

April 10th, 2013

It’s All Over-the-Top with Amdocs

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Category Mobile Access, Telco
 

Layer 7 and AmdocsOver-the-top (OTT) applications have long been seen as a threat to telco service providers, who are obliged to deliver on insatiable bandwidth demands without realizing any commercial benefit from either the consumer/enterprise or the third-party app. This needn’t be the case and the limited participation from service providers in recent years really stems from a shortsighted view of partnerships.

Arguing about “who owns the customer” or that “our customers expect a certain level of service” is so far behind the curve it’s laughable and service providers simply can’t derail innovation by imposing expensive and exhausting procedures. But to be clear, this is a competitive market and service providers will lose more ground unless a contemporary model for collaboration is adopted.

The Amdocs OTT Monetization Solution allows service providers to leverage network assets to create value for OTT providers and monetize service collaborations. Layer 7’s API Management Suite of products defines a new methodology for telco APIs, bringing interface, identity and developer management together in a cohesive platform that can serve mobile, enterprise and internal applications equally. Layer 7 and Amdocs will be working together to deliver a best-of-breed solution, addressing the full lifecycle of telco API needs.

This new approach will yield great results. We have already seen Spotify implement a flat-rate service with T-Mobile Germany. Also, network-enhanced enterprise tools (e.g. AT&T Business Services) are becoming commonplace as LTE networks expand. APIs are the fabric that ensures these collaborations are possible and can be brought to market quickly and efficiently.

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.

March 22nd, 2013

Enterprise Mobility & BYOD – Live Interactive Q&A

BYOD Tech TalkCalling all Enterprise Architects, Application Architects and Senior Developers! For our next API Tech Talk, we’ll be discussing Enterprise Mobility & BYOD live on March 26 at 9am PST. My special guests will be Layer 7 VP of Client Services Matt McLarty and Product Manager for Mobile Leif Bildoy.

The BYOD movement seems to be changing the hardware landscape permanently and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Naturally, this presents both opportunities and challenges. Security managers within the enterprise have less control then ever. “Anywhere access” has blurred the lines of what used to be called the corporate network perimeter.

So what are CIOs and CTOs specifically worried about with BYOD? Well for one, mobile devices can easily go missing while containing sensitive data and employers often cannot even assess the impact of data security breaches from compromised devices. But locking down employees’ personal devices is generally not an option.

So how can enterprises re-assert control over their data assets while still allowing employees to use their own smartphones as they choose? We’ll be discussing this and other questions during out live, interactive Q&A. So, be sure to clear your calendar and join in the discussion on March 26 at 9am PST.

Here’s How to Join the Discussion
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