The API economy is here, is your business ready to Digitize and Monetize?

With the current trend of moving data and applications to the cloud, data needs to pass through various systems, where Application Program Interfaces (APIs) are used to link components with each other, mobile devices and browsers. It can be an organization’s dilemma to willingly risk exposing its data to external systems over the internet, but ambitious business leaders realize that the key to successful business is its willingness to employ the best technology to meet business needs on a scale unmatched by its peers. By exposing internal enterprise data and application functionality via APIs to external applications on mobile devices, consoles and affiliate Web sites, an organization can transform its business into an extensible platform that the digital future requires and unlock new revenue streams called the API Economy.

How an organization can monetize existing applications and data using APIs depends on the product, the business model and innovation. Some companies expose core features allowing developers and end-users to find innovative ways to incorporate the organizations features and services into new social and mobile applications

Twitter and Facebook rely on APIs to drive much of the usage that makes their platforms valuable by expanding engagement beyond their primary user interfaces via third-party Web, mobile and social applications.

A small retailer might integrate with Amazon’s Store API, which would allow it to sell and ship merchandise from its own Web property without developing standalone e-commerce functionality. At a mass scale perspective, this opened up an entirely new channel (and economy) for small and medium-sized merchants.

Consider another example of a large financial spread betting company that offers retail investors leveraged access to over ten thousand financial markets through their dealing platform and mobile applications. With a secure API Management solution in place, the spread betting company exposes trading systems, relevant data and indexes via APIs, enabling its clients to easily integrate on a self-serve basis in a secure, managed, metered and monitored way allowing third parties to perform and execute trades programmatically, without the necessity of using the company’s desktop or mobile clients. By keeping track of how APIs are consumed by various developers, products etc., the spread betting company has the capability to monetize existing data and applications via its APIs. This is just an example of one of the ways to monetize. A company’s monetizing capability really depends on the ability of the business leader’s creativity and innovation.

Choosing the right API Management solution is an important aspect not just for IT but for the business leader as well to reap the agility benefits needed to support digital initiatives. Digital enterprises require a proven technology with deep integration capabilities to build APIs on top of existing applications. Ease of API design, API request transformation features, SOAP to REST conversion, mobile backend-as-a-service (MBaaS), API rate limiting, and metering (analytics) are some of core capabilities that one should look for when researching an API Management solution.

API Management for Everyone

API Management

Today people don’t like talking about ESBs anymore. Instead, the buzz is around cloud, big data, the application programming interface (API) economy, and digital transformation. Application integration is still a core enterprise IT competency, of course, but much of what we’re integrating and how we’re integrating it has shifted from the back office to the omnichannel digital world.

And here’s Fiorano, with one foot still in the traditional ESB space, especially in the developing world where even basic integration is a challenge – and the other foot squarely in the modern digital world. Now they’re launching an API management tool into a reasonably mature market.

On first glance, this move might seem rather foolish, as this market is already crowded, with each of the aforementioned behemoths participating, as well as CA, Axway, Intel, SOA Software, Apigee, WSO2, MuleSoft, and several others, who have all been hammering out the details for a few years now.

But there’s method to Fiorano’s madness. That critical architectural decision that enabled them to compete a dozen years ago has turned out to be extraordinarily prescient, as it separates their approach to API management from the pack as both more cloud-friendly as well as user-friendly than the rest.

Peer-to-Peer with Queues

The secret to Fiorano’s product successes is its unique queue-based, peer-to-peer architecture. Queuing technology, of course, has been with us for decades, but traditionally provided reliability only to point-to-point integrations.

The rise of ESBs in the 2000s saw many vendors building centralized queue-based buses that basically followed a star topology. To scale such architectures and avoid single points of failure required various complex (read: expensive and proprietary) machinations that limited the scalability of the approach.

By building a peer-to-peer architecture, in contrast, Fiorano never relied on a single centralized server to run their bus. Instead, the platform would spawn peers as needed that knew how to interact with each other directly, thus avoiding the central chokepoint inherent to competitors’ architectures. The queues connecting the peers to each other as well as to other endpoints provided the reliability and fault tolerance to the architecture.

The result is an approach that is inherently cloud-friendly – even though the minds at Fiorano built it before the cloud hit the marketplace. Each peer can go on premise or in a cloud instance, and thus scale elastically with the cloud.

Today, as the cloud becomes a supporting player in the digital world and user preferences drive an explosion of technology touchpoints, Fiorano has managed to put in place the underlying technology that now supports the API management needs of modern digital environments.

The API Management Story

I also covered the API Management market starting in 2002, when vendors called it the Web Services Management market. Then it transformed into SOA Management, then Runtime SOA Governance, and now API Management (although Gartner awkwardly uses the term Application Services Governance).

After all, Web Services are a type of API, and managing them is an aspect of governance. Today, we’d rather refer to services as APIs in any case, as our endpoints are more likely to be RESTful, HTTP-based interfaces than SOAP-based Web Services.

This rather convoluted evolutionary path for the API Management market explains why there are so many players – and why many of them are the old guard incumbents. But it also indicates that many of the products in the market are likely to have older technology under the covers, perhaps better suited for first-generation SOA technologies than the modern cloud/digital world.

Fiorano, however, has avoided this trap because of their cloud/digital friendly architecture, as the diagram below illustrates. At the heart of the Fiorano API Management Architecture are both the Gateway Servers, which handle the run time management tasks, as well as the Management Servers, tasked with supporting policy creation, publication, and deployment.

Both types of servers take advantage of Fiorano’s peer-to-peer architecture, allowing cloud-based elasticity and fault tolerance, the flexibility to deploy on-premise or in the cloud, as well as unlimited linear scalability.