APIs the latest term for SOA? Hold that thought

APIs the latest term for SOA? Hold that thought

Summary: APIs have characteristics and purposes outside the scope of service oriented architecture, one industry leader argues.


A common refrain being heard across the industry is that APIs are only the latest term for describing work toward 'service oriented architecture.' However, one industry thought-leader says there are important distinctions.

Ed Anuff Apigee-photo from LinkedIn
Ed Anuff, VP of product strategy at Apigee. Photo: LinkedIn

In a new webcast, Ed Anuff, vice president of product strategy at Apigee, discussed the relationship between APIs -- the new breed of RESTful APIs on the scene today -- and SOA. The two concepts actually differ, he argues -- with SOA focusing on enterprise integration and governance, while APIs are more about channels and applications.

Anuff says APIs have the following characteristics, which separate these from more established SOA practices:

SOA governance does not fully cover APIs. "The main differences come about in relation to governance," says Anuff. "APIs introduced this idea of self-service governance. The API model is built for self-service flow that really allows developers to not have to engage in a heavyweight contract-based design process." Anuff adds that APIs are all "being implemented in a different way, with different security implementations, different access patterns, and really different performance characteristics, which tends to be off the radar."

APIs are a channel strategy as much or more so than an integration strategy. "This is why we see a lot of API strategies driven by an e-commerce team, or web team as perhaps your integration team or SOA team," says Anuff.

Web-tier is now built against the same set of APIs as the mobile tier.The rise of mobile has harkened back the older client/server model which emphasized rich client interfaces, Anuff says. 

The API tier is the last stop before the device."If you have to put something between your mobile device and your API, like an app server, then you probably have an API tier that your unaware," he points out. The creation of a mobile-enabled stack is resulting in APIs that are "sprouting like weeds" across the enterprise.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Apps, Mobility

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  • You have to be completely ignorant of what an API is ...

    ... to even suggest such ridiculous nonsense.

    While a developer uses APIs to write code that follows SOA (as in design concept) you would have to be a complete software-moron to look at APIs as a new term for SOA.
    • SOA perspective and the API echo

      true, APIs can follow SOA, or not. API can echo a SOA perspective, and API management can automate SOA adoption best practices (via self-service, documentation, pre-built security, usage tracking).

  • API-SOA Convergence

    As the technology discussion pivots to focus on APIs, teams are wondering how API and SOA converge. Are services simply being re-branded? Are APIs only good for mobile or external use cases? If we publish APIs, do we need SOA? Many architects believe that APIs do not apply to their projects or business use cases.

    Both API and SOA success requires creating loosely coupled consumer-provider connections, enforcing a separation of concerns between consumer and provider, exposing a set of re-usable, shared services, and gaining service consumer adoption. With traditional SOA, many development teams publish services, yet struggle to create a service architecture that is widely shared, re-used, and adopted across internal development teams.

    API Management products overcome traditional SOA infrastructure limitations and help create an environment where API publishers can design, publish, monitor, report usage, and monetize APIs (billing) through self-service channels.

    API and SOA fit together, and API management can be used to advance SOA initiatives. API management complements SOA Governance, drives service reuse, and maximizes Service Oriented Architecture success.

    To learn more about API-SOA Convergence and Application Services Governance, read the following blog posts:


  • SOA can be reused for API but...

    SOA services are designed to be inwardly facing and APIs are explicitly defined to be outwardly facing. SOA can be upcycled into API without a complete rewrite by inserting an intelligent middleware layer. An example of what such a layer must do is to radically rethink permissions. In the SOA world, users and applications are well known. In the API world, users and applications are rarely known (actually). The modern middleware must defend the boundaries of the organization (like a firewall) but also allow desirable traffic to pass using context-based permissions rather than identity-based permissions.