Complex is probably the most blindingly obvious word that anyone working in technology can use to describe IT. Computing has always been complicated and in the fast-paced IT market, the pressure for organisations to both simplify IT and ensure it is better aligned to real business needs is constant.
At the same time, the rise of the application economy is putting a further strain on organisations, forcing them to deliver new products and services to the market faster and much more frequently than before.
It is not surprising then that more and more companies are looking to simplify their IT processes, in hope it will help them address the market challenges and the constantly changing consumer expectations that drive them. This is where APIs can make all the difference.
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APIs define how developers can make different items of software communicate with each other through a pre-agreed set of specifications or protocols, allowing for automated interconnectivity user applications and enterprise services.
While the ability to use APIs for decreasing IT complexity in the enterprise has existed for some time, up until recently they remained the domain of developers. Traditionally, most software was designed to act in isolation, mirroring legacy business processes, where each department operated separately and communication was scarce.
However, at a time when speed of business can make or break a company, organisations can no longer afford to operate in silos. In an era where connectivity and agility are essential to business success, software plays a key role in empowering innovation and slicing through the snowballing IT complexity.
By opening up and effectively managing APIs, thus allowing interaction between different pieces of software, companies can grow business at unprecedented rates.
By sharing services with partners and creating mutually beneficial ecosystems they can save time and resources, and introduce the much-needed “injection of speed” into the age of ‘things’. Opening up APIs should not be just a software development priority, but a business one.
Opening up APIs
To enable effective API management, organisations must first make them available for use. Opening up APIs and applying those applications to a management ecosystem enables the enterprise to bring legacy data services and systems to their partners and customer base.
It also helps standardise how developers create the management interfaces of new apps and ensure a more security compliant approach to enterprise data.
An open API may be used both by developers inside the organisation that published the API or developers outside that organisation who wish to register for access to the interface.
This means APIs can act like a gateway to enable other applications, developers and partners to access data assets and stimulate development of innovative solutions, while also supporting the transition to a far more joined-up and agile way of doing business.
Open APIs allow the creation of applications for mobile platforms and manipulation of an existing product to better serve customer demands, enabling a much shorter response time and helping large organisations to be much more agile and flexible. It simultaneously increases the rapid production of new channels to market but also decreases development costs for the organisation.
For many enterprises, open APIs will quickly become a universal key for driving new ways of doing business and opening new opportunity.
Ensuring data security
However, as APIs grow in popularity, so does the need for organisations to ensure APIs can integrate and expose legacy systems and applications securely and to the greatest benefit to the business.
In order to address the risks associated with open APIs, organisations must ensure that enterprise data security mechanisms they have in place meet the toughest compliance and regulatory standards.
An API management system could be used to enforce policy controls that would ensure that only known users or trusted applications are authorised to access such assets. It could also provide a control point, which can be monitored to create an audit trail, so that any misuse can be tracked and attributed to individual user or application, making it easier to identify and secure potential weak spots.
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Securing APIs also comes down to the ability to manage not just applications but interfaces – between a business and its customers and partners. As such, organisations need to put great care into choosing which apps, developers and partners can access which APIs, and defining the rules of access in a way that doesn’t compromise sensitive data.
As the application economy drives a need for seamless always-on business, a carefully-executed, API-driven access control can make it safe to open up enterprise applications to more partners and more consumers.
Keeping complexity in check, while enabling speed of change and meeting customer expectations, is a challenge that is way beyond the capabilities of conventional application management or a traditional siloed approach to IT.
Organisations need to put API management at the core of their business philosophy if they hope to innovate and remain competitive in this fast-changing environment.
Sourced Marco Comastri, President and GM, EMEA, CA Technologies