It is no secret that API is a big word. Every day we hear about the API economy, the business value it can create and how it can enable collaboration between businesses, partners, vendors and organization and people in general. All of it is true… The API economy can create significant value and new opportunities for businesses by unlocking the data and functionality spread across business systems and applications beyond the boundaries of organizations and countries.
With the buzz around the API economy, there is also an abundance of confusion around the APIs, API Management, API integration, and other API related alphabet soup. In this article, we will demystify what is the role of API Management and how it is different from API Integration?
Often, people looking to implement API strategy and be part of API economy state their need on the lines of something like the following:
“As part of the digital transformation, we are seeking an API Management Tool that will act as the integration platform between our public-facing systems like the eCommerce platform and internal Enterprise Systems like Salesforce CRM, ServiceNow for Service Management and other home-grown systems.”
The above example is a valuable need and can create better customer satisfaction, reduce cost, improve product delivery, and even create new opportunities to go market with better products or services. However, when trying to find the API Management tool, customers often confuse between what an API Management tool will do and what really belongs to an API Integration or an iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) platform. Let’s break it down and start with the basics of the acronyms and their functional roles:
- API or Application Programming Interface is the signature of the data interchange mechanism or the contract offered by an application to expose its data and functionality to the rest of the world. There are many formats in which API may be implemented, REST or Webservices being the most common ones. However, other mechanisms like file, messages, EDI that are equally acceptable APIs.
- API Management Platforms provide capabilities to manage available APIs and the API Gateway capabilities of applying policies like security, mediation, routing and access controls in general. API Management Portals provided by these platforms allow the administrators to define policies and controls on the APIs. These platforms also provide API Developer Portal for the API users and developers to access the API catalog and the documentation of the APIs.
- API Integration Platforms or an iPaaS, on the other hand, allow building complex workflows that use the APIs from multiple application and platforms to enable business processes. The API integration platform thus allows you to create new APIs that provide higher value functionality using data and functionality from more than one application or database. These platforms consume available APIs and often provide new higher value APIs by aggregation.
Now going back to the use case or the problem statement, the customer will need an API Management platform to expose the APIs to the outside world and to manage and apply policies, access control, and security. They will also need an API Integration platform to build workflows using internal systems like Salesforce and ServiceNow and expose these to the outside world or eCommerce platforms of their own or those of their partners.
A similar use case or a customer requirement could be:
“We need an API Management platform for API based integration between web, partner systems, our salesforce.com, databases on Azure and internal home-grown applications”
Similar to the first use case, you will need both an API Management platform and an API Integration platform (iPaaS, ESB or an integration middleware) to meet your needs in the best possible way. As in any evolving market, many of the iPaaS vendors now provide some of the API Gateway capabilities like the application of policies and controls. However, when you make a choice it might be worth going for the best vendors for each of the API Management and API integration or iPaaS so that you reduce risk and vendor lock-in and at the same time you get the best of the features and capabilities in each of the categories.
In the next article in this series, we will understand what specific functions each of the two platforms perform and how API Management and API Integration or iPaaS work together to meet your use cases. Stay tuned…
Want to learn more? Reach out to me or one of the API experts at RoboMQ.