​Amazon Web Service's API Gateway: Why it could be a big deal

AWS' API Gateway could simplify the API economy, connect more sophisticated apps and give legacy enterprise software a modernization push.

Amazon Web Service's API Gateway, billed as a service that can connect apps to enterprise legacy systems, has the potential one of the company's more critical products and an entry to more customers.

Simply put, AWS' API Gateway could possibly sit in the middle of the application programming interface economy. As everything becomes software---enterprises, mobile, Internet of things etc.---APIs serve as the glue between various systems. APIs are the reason that services such as AWS, Salesforce and Workday can be knitted together in a way that almost resembles a suite.

The issue is that the number of applications is surging and software is getting smaller. AWS' API Gateway is a spin on what the cloud provider does best: Scale.

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"Everything is software. Everything is available via API," said Matt Wood, AWS's lead on product strategy.

AWS unveiled API Gateway at its AWS Summit in New York City on Thursday. Developers got the importance of API Gateway right away. The rest of us had to take developers word for it.

After a bit of homework, the compelling points for API Gateway from a business perspective go like this:

  • Connected services are proliferating and it's being more difficult to deploy the authorization, load balancing, traffic management, analytics and changes. Meanwhile, these connections also need a software development kit. Those chores equate to a lot of work before any real value is reached. You remember keeping the lights on in the data center? Managing APIs is likely to become the software equivalent.
  • API Gateway can automate the process and leave the developers to focus on code that has more business value.
  • The pay-as-you-go service can easily connect applications to AWS cloud services (naturally), but can also be used to modernize legacy Web services and applications that are siloed.

Add it up and it could make sense to use API Gateway almost as a quasi middleware or a service oriented architecture go-between even for companies that aren't AWS customers. AWS is banking that current customers will use API Gateway, but it's not lost on Wood that the company could attract a few newbies too.

"We're trying to remove all the cruft in internal and external APIs," said Wood in an interview. "API Gateway is at the intersection of our skill set where we can remove the undifferentiated heavy lifting."

In a nutshell, API Gateway allows enterprises to wrap large enterprise applications in a wrapper that can connect to a Web services.

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When I said to Wood that API Gateway almost sounds like a newfangled middleware play, he didn't disagree.

Now there are other gateways for APIs from numerous third parties, including a few on the AWS Marketplace, but they aren't native. Wood, however, said that AWS customers were asking for native API management. "This is an enormous market and there is plenty of pie to go around," said Wood.

Bottom line: Developers are going to understand API Gateway faster than the average bear. But AWS' latest tool is going to have enough high-level mojo to get the CXO types at least asking a few questions---especially if they can get a little more life out of legacy systems and make them cloud friendly.

And not surprisingly, AWS pricing structure will make it inexpensive to dabble. The pricing runs $3.50 per million API calls after a free-tier of 1 million calls. Data transfer and cache will add to that tab a bit. Here's an example.

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