APIs, microservices succeed as long as the organization doesn't get in the way

IT executives agree: API and microservices make things more seamless. However, organizational, security and skills issues which are preventing these labor-saving tools from reaching their full potential.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

"Integration" has long been the holy grail of information technology, the everlasting quest of all technology efforts large and small. Backend applications always needed hooks, ladders and interfaces, with silos continuing to sprout across the landscape. Now there are clouds galore that need to be brought into the enterprise. We have APIs and microservices on the scene to help connect things in a more expedient manner. The problem, however, is organizational, security and skills issues which are preventing these labor-saving tools from reaching their full potential. 

Photo: Joe McKendrick

APIs and microservices have brought us a long way toward the vision of relatively seamless integration, a recent survey of 950 IT executives by Software AG and Vanson Bourne shows. Ninety-three percent are sold on the concept of API management with microservices, agreeing that they delivers. While the verdict is almost unanimous, IT executives say it's been difficult to get everyone in their organization on the same page with how they should be deployed. 

General integration solutions are now commonplace in organizations, with 99% using one. Organizations are most likely to be running some form of hybrid integration solution, both on-premises and in the cloud (64%), versus cloud-only (23%) and on-premises only (12%).

Drilling down to APIs, more than eight of 10 (86%) believe their organizations would be working in silos without the use of APIs. Nearly just as many (79%) said they employ APIs for digital transformation projects. A majority, 53%, point to the flexibility APIs provide as their top benefit. Almost half also cite the ability to integrate cloud applications and services into their mixes. 

Despite widespread adoption, barriers remain that limit APIs, microservices and integration systems from being maximized. Notably, concerns around lacking the needed skillset exists across all areas. The top three challenges faced when utilizing APIs include: ensuring API security; limited staff skillset to utilize APIs; and risk to scalability and quality of service (40%).  

API Benefits

  • Flexibility when it comes to the delivery of services/information  53%
  • Allows cloud applications and services to be integrated with other systems  49% 
  • Ability to create and personalize custom user experiences  49%
  • Faster time to market for new products/services  46% 
  • Reduced time to integrate with other systems  46% 
  • Easier to integrate with B2B partners  45%
  • Ability to gain customer insights  39%  

API Challenges

  • Ensuring API security 48%
  • Limited staff skillsets  41%
  • Risk to scalability and quality of service  40%
  • Lack of API-enabled technology stack  38%
  • Issues with creating/developing them   36%
  • Issues with managing them   34%

While IT executives worry about the security of APIs, microservices puts some of those concerns to rest -- a majority, 51%, say microservices help deliver greater security. Similar to APIs, microservices mean greater agility, as also cited by the majority. 

Most IT leaders, 81%, now employ microservices within their organization to some extent and almost a fifth (18%) don't use microservices currently, but plan to in the future. Microservices are the building blocks of emerging service meshes as well -- the majority (85%) of those whose organization is already using microservices claim that they are currently using service mesh as part of microservices management, the survey finds. The survey's authors define a service mesh as "a dedicated infrastructure layer for facilitating service-to-service communications between microservices, often using a sidecar proxy."  

Challenges faced or expected with microservices initiatives include the ability to secure organizational support through funding and staff. Complexity also is a limiting factor. 

Microservices Benefits

  • Greater business agility  55%
  • Improved security  51%
  • Greater ease of scalability  50%
  • Easier for teams to focus on their part  50%
  • Addresses architectural need to support services  49%
  • Easier to fix bugs in specific areas   48%

Microservices Challenges

  • Limited budget to invest  48%
  • Limited staff skillset to utilize microservices  47%
  • Difficult to manage the entire IT environment  45%
  • Complexity  45%
  • Integration of different apps/services is more difficult  45%
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