The Application Programming Interface (API) that allows two pieces of software (or data centers) to communicate with each other can be critically important when accessing data or requesting the execution of a routine or a specific report. APIs perform several tasks by creating a pipeline between internal servers and data stored in the cloud. As such, they represent a shortcut link that saves software developers time and provides a starting point for performing business tasks.
APIs are not new and their use dates back more than two decades. IBM describes them as allowing application data and functionality to be made available to “external third-party developers, business partners, and internal departments (within the same company).” For example, software that maintains customer records could connect to another that is searching the web for additional information about those customers, creating a richer database. Another API could connect an online retail website to a bank’s backend to perform financial transactions.
The most common architecture and industry standard for these applications is built in the REST (Representative State Transfer) API format, which allows developers a high level of flexibility. May 2021 Forbes
History noted that nearly 40% of large organizations use more than 250 APIs to run their business, with $2 billion invested in API companies in 2020, up from $500 million just three years earlier.
More useful than ever
APIs are not only used when accessing data from two cloud databases. For example, they can connect data from an internal “silo” to a source in a public cloud. This flexibility can help free up space internally for other tasks without having to add another server. APIs had some limitations at first, but have progressed to the point that they can now access data, interpret it, and write commands for new routine software based on the data accessed, such as automated robotic commands (bots). Cloud providers have also stepped up and made it easier to write APIs that interact with the services they provide to customers by helping to remove some of the data storage load from their own server farm.
Why invest in APIs?
As a business grows and more software is used, one of the best ways to bridge the silos of each program is to adopt open source application programming interfaces. This way, each program can talk to each other and easily access the necessary data. APIs are the language needed to do just that. The companies will publish guidelines to partners explaining how their APIs can be used, so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to writing software programs.
HubSpot, a sales activity tracker that captures customer interactions across different platforms (email, social media, phone call recordings, etc.), takes full advantage of the benefits offered by APIs. SalesForce is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool that leverages what APIs have to offer to track potential/existing customers, breaking down isolated silos to create a more comprehensive profile pulled from various databases. By connecting these disparate platforms through the use of APIs, data from various sources can be accessed quickly, providing sales professionals with more data they need to research sales opportunities and track sales trends. consumption.
What to consider
It is imperative to have “clean documentation” when writing open source application programming interfaces. Technology teams at both ends of the pipeline need to communicate with each other before writing a program to fix bugs ahead of time. That’s the whole point of using APIs – to make your life easier. Documentation on how a company’s APIs are built should be comprehensive and publicly available so that developers can access it. This gives them a starting point to build on without having to develop software from scratch, like a turnkey program. Additionally, businesses can benefit from these best practices:
Beware of security issues: This is essential when a developer writes an API, as company data (and personal information) will be accessible. There can be issues when API end users are unfamiliar with technology or security best practices, especially if the API is poorly written.
Think modular: Multiple, simple, and smaller APIs can be written to access different functions and data silos. Thus, in the event of errors or security problems, the entire data network may not be impacted. An API can be read-only for example, another allows you to write routines based on the information consulted. Multiple APIs don’t incur much higher costs, and they’re also easier to update.
Use the best technology available: REST APIs have become a standard but may not be the best model in some cases. GraphQL was developed in-house by Facebook a decade ago before going public in 2015. The intention was to make APIs “fast, flexible, and developer-friendly,” according to Red Hat. It is considered a more powerful way to communicate between software, but is not widely used yet.
Take full advantage of APIs
With the explosion of digital transformations, API integrations operating as an “external channel” have found their niche, as it becomes easier to write programs to and from the cloud. The month of May 2021 Forbes The story refers to APIs as the “de facto building blocks” of the digital age, giving software developers a solid foundation to work from. At the same time, APIs go beyond this first step, enabling the creation of higher-order software applications. This can help launch new activities more quickly or launch a new one more quickly. Businesses should step up and further explore what APIs can do for them if they haven’t already.