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APIs: The Chicken or the Egg

This is the fourth post in this series where I have been writing about the drive for new technology. Is need driving innovation or is innovation driving demand? In other words, what came first: the chicken or the egg? In this post, I explore an area of innovation focused on APIs.

Lately, the use of APIs has evolved in a number of ways. One way is as an alternative programming paradigm where tools create programs, often in Java, that make use of interfaces to legacy systems including mainframes, i Series servers and web hosting environments consisting of servers, firewalls and load balancers. The focus of these programs is interfacing with other systems so hence the label APIs.

Ever wonder about the size of the API management software market?  According to Forrester, nearly 40 percent of U.S. enterprises will adopt API management solutions by 2020. And, U,S, companies will spend $660 million on API management solutions in 2020. In short, enterprises are making broad investments in API infrastructure.

Combines the Need to Modernize Plus Generating New Business

The creation of API management products by software industry leaders is both a response to a need and an inventive new way help their customers engage new opportunities. Modernization of systems and applications has been an ongoing activity for decades. Companies are looking for new ways to do it and APIs offer benefits of speed and low cost. But, that is only the half of it for APIs. According to Gartner, the API economy is an enabler for turning a business or organization into a platform. How is this possible? According to Gartner, the API economy is a set of business models and channels based on secure access of functionality and exchange of data. So, to answer the question: new models and channels make this possible.

Alternative Programming Paradigm

Some kinds of APIs are programs. The program type of API has come about since the creation of cloud computing. These small data programs called microprograms are grouped into applications. These applications are used by companies to generate revenue, lower costs, improve efficiency and respond to competitive pressures. These programs are created in an integrated development environment and they provide a connection between the legacy world (called the systems of record) and the new world of engagement like mobile devices. These microservices APIs are surrounded by support capabilities like a management console, security, analytics and logging that are used for governance. The most complete API management programs have a full life-cycle approach that is needed because these microservices APIs are applications that need to be handled as company assets.

API and Enterprise Computing

In 2015, IBM announced z/OS Connect Enterprise Edition, a strategic API gateway into z/OS. This gateway is a configurable, high throughput interface into CICS, IMS, DB2 and WebSphere Application Server. This product is used to make APIs that utilize data from CICS and IMS applications while requiring no changes to the application’s underlying COBOL or PL/1 code. Since z/OS Connect is a gateway, the most important thing it does is help transform applications written in one architectural style to a different one. It is very well documented so you can understand exactly what to do even if the tasks are not always native to your skillset.

Meeting New Challenges

It’s interesting and useful that APIs have been reinvented and brought forth in a completely new way. The old APIs, access methods like QSAM and VSAM, are vital and still in use. The new APIs have found their use in the data-sharing setting to save costs and improve efficiency. The microservices APIs are supplementing applications in many businesses to satisfy needs unmet by existing applications and systems. The microservices APIs are making their impact by providing powerful levels of integration, in an application context, without the need for changes to the existing systems of record.

Microservices API programs are not without their challenges. Just like conventional application assets, you design and build the API programs then they are deployed, managed, made highly available as necessary, backed up and eventually retired. These disciplines must be given the proper level of attention in order for the APIs to reliability carry out their purpose.