IBM's first acquisition of the year could help GraphQL developers

IBM wants to bring GraphQL API graph-based programming to more enterprises for the era of hybrid cloud computing.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Image: gilaxia/Getty Images

IBM has acquired StepZen, a company that aims to make it easier for developers to build GraphQL application programming interfaces (APIs), and improve the performance of tools that use REST APIs. 

GraphQL is a query language for working with APIs that Facebook developed and opened sourced in 2015. The project, which is today hosted by the Linux Foundation, is growing in popularity and has become a popular alternative to REST APIs for service integration via graph-based programming.

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StepZen -- IBM's first acquisition of 2023 -- adds to IBM's API services, such as its API Connect API management service. StepZen, which was founded by former IBMers, developed a GraphQL server that helps developers build GraphQL APIs with less code. Basically, it's a managed GraphQL service.

Bill Lobig, vice president of product management for IBM Automation, told ZDNet that GraphQL is helping organizations to access data for applications across diverse IT infrastructures. It's liked by developers because it's a more efficient way of fetching data than REST. 

"GraphQL is emerging as an alternative and a complement to REST APIs because it enables declarative data fetching via a single API endpoint that returns the specific data you want from multiple sources. It's ideal for use cases where the application needs a very specific set of data and/or data that must be stitched together from multiple sources," explained Lobig.

"One of the challenges surrounding modern application development is that organizations have so many options for where they deploy and run their applications -- on-premises, in the cloud, or using a hybrid cloud model -- and different models of data structure and hosting options, for example, transactional, data warehouses, data lakes, and data lakehouses," added Lobig. 

"One trend helping organizations tackle the complexity of accessing their data and application ecosystems in these diverse and distributed environments is graph-based programming, which was popularized by GraphQL."

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According to the 2022 State of GraphQL survey, the most popular language to write GraphQL backends is TypeScript/JavaScript, but some developers are also using Go, Python, Java, Ruby, PHP, Rust, Elixir, and Kotlin.

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