Enterprise APIs now populate path to shared services

APIs are no longer just about connecting to outside web services; they are an enterprise service delivery strategy as well.

Increasingly, organizations see application programming interfaces (APIs) as a way of delivering shared services across their enterprises, and out to third parties.

Keyboard Photo by Joe McKendrick
Photo credit: Joe McKendrick

The folks at Axway just shared the results of a poll which finds at least half of enterprises are making use of application programming interfaces, 40 percent of respondents using a mixture of open and enterprise APIs, and three percent using Open APIs.

The poll was taken during a webcast, suggesting a lot of self-selection bias. But the way APIs are being used point to high levels of internal adoption. APIs are no longer just about connecting to outside web services; they are an enterprise service delivery strategy as well.

The Axway poll found that 30 percent of respondents are using APIs to expose on-premise apps to third parties. A similar number, 29 percent, use APIs to build new mobile applications, and 22 percent leverage APIs to connect internal applications to cloud services.

Forrester analyst Jeff Hammond participated in the Axway webcast, observing that APIs are the latest variation of "facade" patterns, meant to present interfaces to back-end code.  "The facade re-expressed as an API layer is going to be one of the fundamental patterns that we see emerge as we move toward modern applications," he says, noting that this is a pattern already employed by companies such as Evernote, NetFlix and TripIt. An API facade pattern "provides well-defined end-points that multiple clients can access."

The value of these patterns is found in the "very loose coupling between the client and the infrastructure side," Hammond continues. "That allows somebody like Netflix to build a Silverlight client for one device and an HTML client for another device, depending on the capabilities that are available on the client, and have these pieces independently move from the evolution of the infrastructure on the back end.:

Such an API facade pattern "using XML or JSON as the payload for RESTful web services is extremely friendly to all these mobile devices. It's kind of table stakes that you support a full HTML client on whatever client-side device you're creating today. Because of that it allows us to attack and access a lot of platforms that maybe we couldn't through traditional web services or SOAP-based protocols. Beneath this API facade pattern there's a layer of cloud-enabled elasticity that we ramp up or ramp down."

In the near future, Hammond says, "we think that almost every enterprise will have an API channel to its digital platform -- headless access to its data and business processes if you will."