5 ways API management impacts daily life
Whether it’s news feeds, online shopping, or navigation systems, the variety of new cloud, mobile and internet of things (IoT) solutions are changing how we work, play and shop. Businesses also benefit from increased visibility and productivity, as well as from new opportunities to lower costs and streamline operations. It’s no wonder companies in every industry are rushing to participate by "opening" their applications (news feeds, laboratory results, manufacturing lines, etc.) to allow other systems to interact with them.
There’s just one problem. If organizations don’t adequately manage how they open their systems, the interactions will eventually fail, wreaking havoc on the hybrid solutions they create. The technology enabling this interaction is the application programming interface (API). One use of an API is to help developers build larger applications, including the inputs, outputs and basic operations. Very simply, if a health management system (HMS) wants to be able to pull the results from a laboratory application, the HMS needs to understand how to connect to the laboratory application, input a medical record number, request a test result, and receive the output. The API tells the HMS how to do these things.
Our increasing reliance on APIs has given rise to what many are calling the API Economy, an apt label given the billions of API calls that now take place every day. But what if these API calls stop working? What if our favorite apps suddenly stop delivering? It can happen if the companies developing and publishing APIs don’t adequately manage them. The key to this is API Management. API Management provides exposed, unique corporate assets for use by third-party developers to support new devices and create new apps (mobile is a prime example) that can affect our everyday life.
Here are five increasingly essential daily life activities, along with five ways API management can impact them:
- Using a single portal to read news from multiple sites, check email, and conduct searches.
API Management Issue: Mobile Enablement
The numerous mobile apps that you use on your smart phones and other mobile devices are supported by API Management systems. APIs expose unique corporate assets that developers use to create mobile apps. And when you use the app, API Management systems securely provision the app, delivering the data and providing useful information -- for example, local restaurants, hotels and gas prices. Or they can provide entertainment value through games or video streaming.
- Finding grocery store shelves stocked with favorite foods thanks to improved communication across supply chain systems.
API Management Issue: Complexity
From farm to processing to packaging to distribution to store shelves…supply chains are highly complex, and today’s supply chains are highly dependent on APIs. A disruption anywhere (an out-of-date API, for example) can have a ripple effect that leaves a store shelf empty for days or weeks. Supply chain systems must include centralized visibility into the operation of every API in the chain.
- Shopping online and finding unlimited products, product information, and additional sellers, along with reviews, recommendations, and the shopping cart.
API Management Issue: Scale
Every time you go to an online shopping site, compare products from different manufacturers, read reviews, and use a shopping cart, you are relying on dozens of APIs to work flawlessly. The more people use the site -- think about Cyber Monday -- the more stress is placed on APIs to handle the throughput. Without adequate API management to support the needs of consumer demand, your customer experience will include delays, error messages, and unavailable products -- with the problems increasing with each new customer.
- Using your car’s navigation system to find new restaurants and stores, and having immediate access to reviews, menus, hours of operation, and driving directions.
API Management Issue: Time to Value
Whether you drive a car for business, have teenage children heading off to college, or just don’t have a good sense of direction, nothing beats a good navigation system that pulls in traffic and weather information and has the ability to search for restaurants, gas stations and other services. Here the burden is on the supplying companies to develop and update their APIs so drivers always have access to the latest information. API management must provide the tools developers need to rapidly create and publish APIs. Otherwise, arrival estimates may be off, addresses may be wrong, and a Starbucks may be nowhere in sight.
- Visiting a primary care physician who has immediate access to information from specialists and labs, even across multiple healthcare organizations.
API Management Issue: Governance
Nowhere is API management more important than in being able to secure what third-party applications have access to, especially when systems contain private and otherwise sensitive information. With proper API management, organizations gain the visibility and control they need to ensure API operation is in compliance with business and regulatory requirements.
API Management is likely enhancing your life every day and you don’t even realize it. Conversely, if you are cursing technology because an application is failing, more often than not, it is because an application is depending on an interface that is not being well managed. Business success depends on customer satisfaction. Therefore, business success ultimately depends on API Management.
Michael Morton is the CTO of Dell Boomi, where he is responsible for product innovation.