APIs are transforming the development world by solving the age-old problem of moving information from one application to another. What started as walking punch cards down the hall or mailing disks to each other has evolved into a suite of modern application programming interfaces. With APIs, you get a seamless transfer of flexible data and a layer of security between multiple applications. They’ve become so convenient in recent years that they’re now the popular choice for enhancing or adding new features to any application or cloud service.
Similar to outsourcing data or applications, by leveraging APIs, companies are able to focus on their point of differentiation, and then partner with another organization to take advantage of what they do best. By doing this, you avoid wasting precious time and resources building something that’s already been done. (And by someone who’s better at it!)
After working with many clients on their journey to becoming API-centric, I’ve become a huge fan of APIs and can speak to the many great features they provide organizations. Below are my top three.
Quicker Speed to Market
APIs provide a quicker solution to introducing new features or changing existing behaviors, even in a large enterprise situation. Their purpose is to help a consumer access a new service or software that would otherwise take them months to build in-house, so they’re designed to be quick, well-documented and easy for developers so that they don’t stumble with integration.
Greater Security Focus
Security within an API allows data to travel between applications securely and efficiently by providing a proxy, or wall, between the two applications that can be secured using a tool such as OAuth or APIKeys. The data can also be manipulated in new ways making it easier to consume on the receiving end, such as turning an XML file into JSON. This creates a cleaner code base with less time troubleshooting and more time to focus on the company’s needs. Additional security features include monitoring incoming and outgoing requests, hiding your public IP address, and filtering and redirecting requests. With complex webs of slightly different formats, how do we smoothly incorporate data from a variety of sources, or relay instructions from one application to another? An API takes care of that for you.
Imagining every possibility that your users will need from an API is an almost impossible task, however, APIs offer many choices to create a flexible multipurpose platform. Allow your API to accept as many formats as possible and then have the API manipulate that data into a format that can be handled within the system. Simultaneously, you can specify the data to be case-sensitive or allow multiple forms of data input.
Much like the SaaS model, APIs have shown us that the best way to do business isn’t necessarily by doing everything in-house. By taking advantage of the technology that APIs provide, your developers can focus their efforts on other projects that are in your wheelhouse, and will move your business forward.
About the Author:
Bresdin O’Malley is a senior consultant who’s been fighting software-related fires as a full stack developer for over six years. Her other super-powers manifest while gardening on her urban micro-farm, and hiking in the mountains with her dog pack.
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